NAPERVILLE — According to the Naperville Police Department, The Helping Hand Program is ending. The program allowed homeowners to register private residences as safe places for kids when lost, hurt, or in danger.
Naperville Police Deputy Chief Jason Aires said zero kids used the program in 2015, thanks to the evolution of technology and more cell phones.
“The data doesn’t lie in situations like these,” he said.
According to a Naperville Police press release, The Helping Hand Program started in the late 1960s. The police department conducted background checks every two years on homes in the program. A red and white Helping Hand sign in a front window designated safe houses.
The press release said no Helping Hand volunteers have contacted Naperville Police since fall 2015 to indicate they assisted a child through the program. Records regarding the usage of the program do not exist before 2015, but the staff said they cannot remember the last time a child needed a designated home.
Background check regulations have also increased the cost of running The Helping Hand Program, according to the Naperville Police Department press release. New rules make it a violation for the department to run criminal background checks for the program through its current system. It would have to spend $35 per background check of any person over age 18 in a Helping Hand household every two years.
In the press release, Police Chief Robert Marshall also acknowledged the program was a liability for almost everybody involved, since it never included any waivers.
“We have to change with the times and deploy resources where they make sense,” he said.
Helping Hand volunteers will be asked to return house signs in the coming months to Naperville Police or to their neighborhood school for destruction. Educators and parents are also asked not to mention the program when discussing current safety options.
The Naperville Police Department said it will continue teaching safety programs in the classroom.