While Steve Thomas and his family waited to cross Kenmore Boulevard at 12th Street Southwest on Wednesday afternoon, a police cruiser approached and an officer stepped out.

“I was thinking, ‘What’s going on here — we’ve done nothing wrong,’?” Thomas said shortly afterward.

But Thomas’ mind changed when the officer, Shea Flaherty, explained the police department’s summer campaign to foster trust in children of the Akron community. Dubbed the “Positive Ticketing” program, police who spot children out and about this summer might stop and reward the kids for doing good deeds.

“Have your kids done anything good lately?” Flaherty asked.

“Actually, our neighbor, she walks with a cane, and they helped her move,” Thomas said, with little hesitation.

In a parking lot nearby, Flaherty gave the three children — Thomas’ 2-year-old son, Kass; his 6-year-old daughter, Kadence; and his 4-year-old nephew Roger Roberts — vouchers for free ice cream cones and filled out slips for a drawing. Each week throughout the summer, the winners of the drawings will receive a bicycle from the department.

The three children seemed uneasy at first, but lightened up after Flaherty explained they’ll get free ice cream from local McDonald’s restaurants, which donated the vouchers.

After the minutes-long interaction with Flaherty, the kids were beaming. And within an hour, Flaherty had rewarded about a dozen children across the city. All of them began their interaction with apprehension, but they rapidly turned to excitement after learning of the program.

Back at the police department, a small box has been filled with tickets for the bike drawing. A majority of the tickets show children rewarded for being safe or helpful: pushing a stroller for their parents, drawing with chalk on their porch instead of getting into trouble, getting good grades in school, wearing helmets and using crosswalks. One ticket was much more serious, with a 12-year-old boy recognized for calling police when his mother was overdosing on aspirin.

Light-hearted or serious, the program is designed to encourage children to trust police officers.

“Not every police interaction has to be accompanied by bad news or crime,” Flaherty said. “We’re trying to weave some positive interaction with police into the lives of the community.”

Nick Glunt can be reached at 330-996-3565 or nglunt@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @NickGluntABJ.