HANAMA‘ULU — Karen Liu, principal of King Kaumuali‘i Elementary School, said it’s been a long time since McGruff, the crime dog, made an appearance at her school.
Wednesday, McGruff returned in a Kaua‘i Police Department patrol car, its sirens screaming in response to a situation which could happen, triggering the 620 King Kaumuali‘i students into a screaming frenzy of aloha.
Faith Shiramizu of the Kaua‘i Department of Water said McGruff has been downplayed for the past few years while the staff of the utility companies were retrained for the McGruff program certification.
“We want to bring McGruff back to the children,” Shiramizu said. “The utility companies — Department of Water, The Gas Company, Time Warner Oceanic, the Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative and Hawaiian Telcom — all have personnel which have been trained for the McGruff program and are part of the McGruff coalition on Kaua‘i.”
McGruff decals, signifying vehicles which are equipped to be McGruff responders, are prominently placed at the front of certified utility vehicles.
“McGruff is also a regular participant of the DOW’s Splash Day, but over the years, the students don’t know what he represents,” Shiramizu said. “We just want to re-introduce him (and the program) so everyone knows McGruff is a resource people can utilize during certain emergencies.”
Maile Moriguchi of KIUC re-introduced the special school-wide assembly to the McGruff program, being aided by Dennis Cortez of Oceanic Time Warner who quizzed the students on what is an emergency.
Lynda Okayama of KIUC joined the presentation, graphically showing students how to flag down a McGruff responder while Joy Buccat of the Department of Water demonstrated how not to flag down a responder.
The points were driven home by a special skit utilizing King Kaumuali‘i students in an “it could happen here” situation where a student is injured in a playground accident and another flags down a tandem team of utility McGruff responders, the situation climaxing with the arrival of the KPD officer and McGruff in a sirens-screaming patrol car.
“The mission of McGruff is to help people, especially kids,” Cortez said. “McGruff also teaches people what is right and wrong, such as how to properly cross the streets.”
In 1980, a dog in a rumpled trench coat said, “You don’t know me yet. But you will.”
Since that time, McGruff the crime dog has taught millions of people that police cannot fight crime alone, states the National Crime Prevention Council website.
Crime prevention is everybody’s business and everyone can help “Take A Bite Out of Crime.”
Over the years, McGruff has made thousands of appearances at community and school events and on radio and television, his messages changing from urging personal, family, and home security to more broadly based crime prevention concerns.
During the mid-1990s, the McGruff campaign addressed the effects of gun-related violence on children, and current issues include volunteering, bullying, Internet safety and identity theft.
• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@ thegardenisland.com.