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NORTH TONAWANDA – Citizen safety can be as simple as walking on the sidewalks, rather than on city streets.

To promote that idea, the neighborhood watch group North Tonawanda Citizens on Patrol, or COPS, has created a “Poster Project for Safe Walking,” which will be held March 3-7.

COPS is partnering with the city’s school district, the Police Department, Tops Markets and Walmart.

Stephen C. Ash, a founding member of COPS, said, “The group believes that safety of their children is important to every parent. We think we are seeing more children and, unfortunately, adults walking in the streets, especially when sidewalks are there. I see parents, mothers, walking their children in strollers in the street, walking with traffic on their iPhone and not being aware of cars around them.”

The contest is for students in kindergarten through grade 12, who are encouraged to create a picture, phrase or slogan that conveys the message that walking on sidewalks, rather than in the street, is the safe way to go.

After awarding prizes, the posters, created on paper food bags and paper that will be provided, will be displayed for a month in the School Administration Building, 175 Humphrey St., and then returned to Tops and Walmart to be handed out to North Tonawanda shoppers to spread the message of safe walking.

Food bags and paper will be available in the schools beginning March 3, and completed posters must be submitted to the front office of the child’s school no later than March 15.

An information meeting on the poster project will be held at 7 p.m. Feb. 10 in the library of the high school, 405 Meadow Drive. If bad weather causes a cancellation, it will be held at the same time Feb. 13.

COPS was established in October 2009 by concerned citizens to promote the education of residents and business owners on crime prevention and quality of life. Ash said this will be the group’s first poster contest to promote safe walking.

“We talked to Superintendent (Gregory J.) Woytila, and he also said this was a problem for students,” Ash said. “We want to be proactive rather than reactive, rather than tragically waiting for something to happen on our streets. At least we can say we had something we hoped would call attention to the concern of walking in the streets.”

He added: “We are hoping that the message gets out and spreads. We will never know if we are successful. Will somebody miss an accident because of this? We won’t know. But if we don’t do something, will we say we might have prevented this?”

email: nfischer@buffnews.com