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, in order to implement the school security enhancement, according to Police Chief W. Harry Earle.
John Bilodeau, interim superintendent of Gloucester Township Public Schools (GTPS), this week applauded the plan, which will not put an armed officer in each of the district's 11 school buildings—eight K-5 schools and three middle schools—at all times, but nonetheless brings an increased police presence.
"I think it's a significant commitment by all parties here in town. Obviously, we are one of them," he said. "I really want to compliment the chief and the mayor (David Mayer) and really the board. I think some of the events this year—Superstorm Sandy, certainly the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy—have gotten these entities that may have been in the past a bit more separate speaking a little bit more. I think security is really now a community issue."
In addition to the four new officers added to the Juvenile Unit, Earle noted the Police Department already had two full-time D.A.R.E. officers dedicated to the three middle schools and a school resource officer assigned full-time to both Black Horse Pike Regional School District high schools in the township—Highland and Timber Creek.
"This is not the end of school security. Obviously, I think this is just a beginning, or certainly a rekindling," Bilodeau said.
The superintendent has asked GTPS Board of Education President Bill Collins to create a board committee dedicated specific to security.
Read Bilodeau's letter to GTPS parents addressing school security here.