McGruff Safe House program ending

By: Melina Matthes

A safe refuge for kids is being taken away and many think it's a bad idea. A federal program designed for children who feel they are in danger is being cut. And volunteers are begging those in charge to change their mind.

McGruff houses are designed to protect kids who are approached by strangers, lost or otherwise in danger. But due to the lack of funding, the entire program is in danger.

Soon you won't hear, “Take a bite out of crime!” anymore.  McGruff the crime dog has been shut down due to the lack of funding. The program was started to educate kids about drugs, bullying and safety, as well as the importance of staying in school. Most often the McGruff logo is seen on the windows of homes, indicating that it is a safe refuge for children who feel they are in danger.

Heather Pedersen's home is one such place. As a child, she was almost kidnapped.  “I was almost abducted when I was 4 and my dad was paying attention and prevented that from happening and since then I just felt it was very important to become an advocate for children and keep them safe,” Pedersen said.

The National Crime Prevention Council decided to close the program, so the Lincoln Police Department had to follow suit. They sent letters to the 93 McgGruff houses here in town asking them to return or destroy the signs. But Pedersen says her home will always be safe for children.

“If somebody does come to my house in fear I will open the door and I will call 911…it wouldn't be right to turn them away,” Pedersen said.

Many wonder what kids in danger will do now that the program is cut off. Lincoln Police recommend running to a safe place…that has this emblem in their window.  

“If the nearest thing you have is a house to go to make as much noise as you can…you really think someone's gonna abduct you…ya know, be loud, run, scream and people in the neighborhood are going to notice that going on, if you need to go to a house go to a house,” Officer Erin Spilker said.

McGruff houses were asked to destroy their signs, but police warn that they could get in the wrong hands. They ask parents to teach their kids that those homes may not be safe anymore and to look for safe place signs like the one here at this fire house.