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Meridian Police unveils child abuse awareness car

In 2020, Meridian Police dealt with 151 reports of child abuse - including two separate cases in which children died.

MERIDIAN, Idaho — The Meridian Police Department is hoping their newest patrol car will spark discussion in the community and prompt residents to reach out to authorities if they know of a child in danger.

The child abuse awareness patrol car was unveiled Tuesday, just days into Child Abuse Prevention Month. The unique wrap depicts a large blue pinwheel - a symbol of the fight against abuse and neglect - as well as the phrase "prevent child abuse" and a child's handprint. 

"The pinwheel represents the joyful, carefree childhoods all children deserve," said Meridian Police Chief Basterrechea. "This vehicle is a conversation starter and reminder for us and our community, that our responsibility is to take care of our future."

St. Luke's Children's Hospital saw a surge of children coming in with injuries related to abuse or neglect in 2020, a statistic some doctors is tied to the COVID-19 pandemic and the financial and relationship stress it has placed on families. Five of those children brought in to St. Luke's ultimately died of their injuries.

Meridian has been no exception. In 2020 there were 151 reported child abuse cases in Meridian, according to police. Two Meridian boys - two-month-old Dawson McKinney and 9-year-old Emrik Osuna - ultimately died from their injuries in separate parental abuse cases, according to investigators.

So far this year, there have been 26 reported cases.

"Child abuse and neglect are happening right here in our community," said St Luke's CARES Medical Director Dr. Matthew Cox. "It is imperative that we all do our part in protecting kids, because failing to act is failing a child."

Meridian Police says they are working with Children at Risk Evaluation Services (CARES) and the Women's & Children's Alliance (WCA) to help abused children. 

"The WCA applauds the City of Meridian for working to create even greater awareness about child abuse. Home is not a safe haven for everyone and often the most vulnerable are young children, who cannot speak up or protect themselves," said WCA CEO Bea Black. "We hope this blue-ribbon awareness patrol vehicle will remind community members that help is just a phone call away. It takes a village to protect our children."

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