No matter what, the police department will get some new piece of equipment.
By SHERRI L. SHAULIS
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
NILES -- City officials will get caught up in a little game show atmosphere Tuesday when they travel to Columbus.
Police Chief Bruce Simeone, police Capt. Rob Hinton, Mayor Ralph A. Infante and Safety-Service Director Donald Allen will make the trip to represent Niles when the city is honored for conducting one of the best seat-belt awareness campaigns in the state.
Simeone said Niles was chosen as one of the Top 10 participants in the "What's Holding You Back?" campaign, designed to promote the correct use of child restraints and seat belts. The state's Department of Public Safety put out the call for participants, but challenged them to see just how much they could do with it, he added.
"We really put a lot of effort in," Simeone said. "What we did -- and this was all led by Captain Hinton -- was put together a program that involved the police department, the schools, the fire department, the administration of the city and the building department.
"Everyone did quite a job getting the message out."
Locally the program included everything from murals painted on fire station windows and videos of lines of children spelling out the question, "What's Holding You Back?" to officers stopping motorists to remind them of the proper use of safety restraints. The campaign motto also appeared on the city's utility bills.
Simeone said state officials simply instructed participating agencies to get out the word they best they could, and the people of Niles just ran with it.
Videos, newspaper clippings and more detailing the city's efforts to promote the campaign were sent to the state, and officials there chose Niles and nine other communities out of more than 100 reviewed to receive honors Tuesday in the capital.
But the city will get more than just a pat on the back for a job well done.
"No matter what, we will be awarded some type of equipment," Simeone said.
All of the honored communities will receive either an in-car video system for use in a police car, or a new laser radar unit. Each system is valued at more than $4,000.
"We recently bought three in-car video units, and while they were not top of the line, they still cost around $3,600 each," Simeone said.
But there's a chance to bring home even more. Representatives from each of the 10 communities will receive keys and one of them will start the engine of a new, fully loaded cruiser. It is valued at between $25,000 and $30,000.
"We have really got our fingers crossed for that," Simeone said. "In fact, we aren't even talking about the possibility that we will not get the keys to start it."