Gloucester Township Police Chief W. Harry Earle announced this afternoon his department has implemented a plan to bring a significantly increased police presence to the township's 11 kindergarten through eighth-grade (K-8) schools.
There will not be one armed officer in each of Gloucester Township Public Schools' 11 school buildings at all times under the plan, but Earle notes in a statement police will have "a significantly increased uniform presence at all of our elementary schools. These officers will be patrolling our schools' hallways, parking areas, highways adjacent to our schools, answering police calls for service at our schools, building mutual respect between the school staff and most importantly establishing a rapport with the students."
The Police Department's Juvenile Unit has been expanded from four officers to eight, including a sergeant who will serve as unit commander and direct all school- and juvenile-related activities for the Police Department, in order to implement the school security improvements, Earle said.
Earle's complete statement is below:
The Gloucester Township Police Department has consistently engaged in a policing philosophy focused on community policing, building partnerships, and developing programs and initiatives aimed at addressing crime and reducing violence. As the one month anniversary of the Sandy Hook School massacre passes, we have taken the opportunity to continue in our efforts of implementing and developing community partnerships and programs especially those dealing with youth and school safety.
Earlier this month, Mayor (David) Mayer and Gloucester Township Council authorized the expansion of our Police Department's Juvenile Unit. This unit, which in the past consisted of four officers, is tasked with patrolling our high schools, investigating juvenile related crime, referring juvenile victims and juveniles in crisis to the appropriate services, and managing our anti-violence programs including Project BATLE, GT Focus, The Gathering Space, the upcoming program GT MARRS, and even more. A brief description of these programs can be viewed on the Township website. The Juvenile Unit has now been greatly expanded to include a total of eight positions all of which will be staffed by police officers. Additionally, the unit will now be commanded by a Sergeant whose duty will be to manage all police operations involving youth and our schools throughout our entire community. These operational modifications will greatly assist in investigating youth suspected of criminal activity, managing our anti-violence programs, and establishing a direct community partnership with our schools including the school staff and students.
Our new and expanded Juvenile Unit has resulted in the Gloucester Township Police Department having a significantly increased uniform presence at all of our elementary schools. These officers will be patrolling our schools' hallways, parking areas, (and) highways adjacent to our schools, answering police calls for service at our schools, building mutual respect between the school staff, and most importantly establishing a rapport with the students. Having uniformed Gloucester Township Police Officers in our schools has been commonplace for decades. We have had uniformed officers in our elementary schools and our high schools every day as part of our pre-existing High School Resource Officer (SRO) Program, our K-6 Society Improvement Program (entitled “SIP,” which is a Safety and Community Education Youth Training Program), or our D.A.R.E. Program. Our high school SRO program has existed since 1999, our SIP Program since the 1970s, and D.A.R.E. since 1990. The benefit of having children see uniformed Gloucester Township Police Officers in their schools is nothing new at all; however, as a result of our Juvenile Unit expansion, parents, students, and staff will be seeing even more uniformed Gloucester Township Police Officers and marked police units at their schools. The expansion of our Juvenile Unit from four officers to seven officers with a Unit Supervisor (Sergeant) demonstrates our commitment in assisting our schools in providing a safe environment for our children.
The additional positions associated with the expanded Juvenile Unit are in addition to the expansion of our D.A.R.E. Program to seventh grade last year which commits two full-time officers in our schools on a daily basis during the entire school year.
The Gloucester Township Police Department understands well that having fully trained and equipped police officers responding to school-related calls for service and as well patrolling our schools is of great importance. We also understand that as a community it is imperative that we understand that youth are in need of social services, and criminal justice services. Additionally, it is of great importance that those that may be at risk of being victimized or even violating the law are identified whenever possible and offered the appropriate prevention services.
The expansion of our Juvenile Unit and our ongoing partnership with our schools will ensure that we effectively and efficiently patrol our schools and just as importantly reinforce and continue to implement programs that aim to prevent violence. As we move throughout the year 2013, Gloucester Township will be opening a facility entitled the Gloucester Township Police Community and Youth Meeting Center where services will be offered for families and youth. In consideration of the violence that has plagued the nation, it is imperative that we do whatever is necessary to identify potential violence and work with our schools in providing services whenever possible.
As the issue of gun and youth violence continues to be discussed around the nation, there is no doubt that the Gloucester Township Police Department will continue to collaborate with our township officials and schools to assist in making our schools safe and to ensure that the parents of our community children feel safe.
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