Lansing mayor introduces “school watch” program

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School watch program will attempt to improve safety in school areas

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero introduced the new School Watch program in the State of the City address.

“The safety of our children and the education of our children are perhaps the most important issues of our time,” Bernero said during the address on Jan. 30.

The new program, scheduled to start in the fall of 2014, will recruit volunteers from the community to patrol designated areas and deal with violence on school property and surrounding neighborhoods.

“The goal is to have an extra set of eyes patrolling, making sure the kids are safe,” said Lansing Police Department Public Information Officer Robert Merritt. “High schools and middle schools are our main focus because their students do most of the walking. We will have volunteers on foot, in police vehicles, in school buses and even on bicycles.”

Volunteers will be in direct contact with the Police Department by radio and by cellphone.

“If they view it as a hierarchical effort where the police officers run the show, and they just ask a few parents for help that’s nice, but that’s limited,” former Associate Director of National Center for Policing Bonnie Bucqueroux said. “If they say we want you to be our actual partner in problem solving then that’s a program with potential.”

The six schools participating will be Sexton High School, Eastern High School, Everett High School, Pattengill Middle School, Gardner Middle School and Dwight Rich Middle School.

Volunteers will patrol in two shifts, from 7 a.m. – 9 a.m. or 2 p.m. -4 p.m.

Volunteers are not required to work a minimum number of days per week, but they are asked to commit to one year of volunteer work and cover at least one full-time slot.

“To be eligible to volunteer you must be 21 years of age with a GED or diploma,” Merritt said. “ Volunteers are also asked to complete a screening form and attend a yearly training meeting.”

Those interested in volunteering should contact Penni Elton at 517-483-6812 or email LPDSCU@lansingmi.gov.

According to an email from Lansing Chief of Police Mike Yankowski, the program is designed to prevent crime through collaboration between Lansing School District Staff, the Lansing Police Department and Sparrow Health system.

However, when I asked Sexton High School Public Safety Officer Charron Basey about how the program would be implemented at the high school, she told me she had not heard of the program. She directed me to the Department of Public Safety main office, but no one there seemed to know about the program yet either.

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