FARMINGTON — Farmington police Officer Steve Smith spoke to about 20 children about bike safety on Thursday at Farmington's Sycamore Park Community Center.
"Bikes are a lot of fun, but they can also be dangerous too," Smith told his audience.
The bike safety class was the first in a series of programs the center is hosting through a partnership with the Farmington Police Department. Classes on a variety of topics — including bullying, stranger danger, gang awareness and shoplifting — are scheduled each week through September.
Lt. Joshua Laino came up with the idea for the series after speaking with the center's director, Natalie Spruell. He expects the most popular classes to be the ones that focus on bullying and stranger danger. While the police department has offered programs at the Sycamore Park Community Center in the past, this is the department's first class series.
In addition to teaching children about safety, the classes offer a chance for children to interact with police. Laino said children are more likely to turn to officers for help if they have interacted with police in the past.
"I thought it's a win-win for everybody," Laino said.
Laino formerly served as a K9 officer and often brought his K9 partner, Rocky, to schools. Even years later, children recognized him from the presentations, he said.
"You don't ever truly know the effect you have on the kids," he said.
In connection with the fall class series, officers are also scheduled to offer a demonstration-oriented series in the spring.
On Thursday, Smith brought his bike to the center to help teach his class.
Smith, who has worked as an officer for 24 years, has spent a lot of time on a bike as an officer. He told the children that said even the best riders fall sometimes. But, he explained, if children follow safety rules, they likely won't end up in the doctor's office.
Nano Zapata, 6, stood up occasionally during the class to insert comments.
He stood up to tell Smith why people should always keep both hands on a bike's handlebars.
"You might fall off and just go flying," Nano said.
After the class, Nano said he was going to follow safety rules, such as wearing a helmet, when he rides his bike.
"When I get home, I'm going to ride it," he bragged.
IF YOU GO
What: Sycamore Park Community Center and Farmington Police Department safety classes
When: 4 to 5 p.m. every Thursday through Sept. 25
Where: Sycamore Park, 1051 Sycamore St. in Farmington
More info: Call 505-566-2480 or go to www.fmtn.org/spcc.
Aug. 21: Animal safety with Ranger Leonard Longhorn
Aug. 28: Bullying with school resource officers
Sept. 4: Stranger danger with Detective Lisa McGaha
Sept. 11: Gang awareness with Officer Nate Kempton
Sept. 18: Shoplifting/stealing consequences with Officer Lili Monclova
Sept. 25: Police Explorer Post presentation with Explorer Post members and Officer Misty Genson