After the stabbing of a city student, acting superintendent Eileen Shafer added extra security during dismissal time in the vicinity of John F. Kennedy and Eastside high schools.
Four off-duty police officers have been assigned to patrol the vicinity of both high schools from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. This is in addition to the safe corridors setup up the Paterson Police Department and Passaic County Sheriff’s Office at the district’s request.
Shafer met with representatives of both police and sheriff’s office as well as district security in a November meeting. At that meeting a suggestion emerged to hire off-duty officers to assist in better patrolling the areas around both schools.
“I wanted to ensure our students are safe,” said Shafer. A student from Eastside High School was stabbed twice in November that prompted the superintendent to beef up security around both schools. “We erred on the side of caution and safety for our students.”
A set of two officers patrol Totowa and Preakness Avenues by John F. Kennedy High School and another set patrol Park Avenue and Market Street by Eastside High School. Four officers will cost $75,000. The officers will conduct patrols until the end of the 2017-18 school year, said the superintendent.
School board member Emanuel Capers and councilman Luis Velez have witnessed improvements in the vicinity of both schools after the deployment of the four off-duty officers.
“This has made a big difference,” said Capers, who lives few blocks away from John F. Kennedy High School. He is lobbying the Passaic County government to setup crosswalks to put an end to a great deal of jaywalking that occurs on Preakness and Totowa Avenues, both roads owned by the county.
“I’m glad she did it,” said Capers of the superintendent. “Now we’re re-assuring our parents that safety of their children is very important to us.” He wants to see more police and county patrols around both schools particularly at dismissal time.
Capers said the safety corridor by police and sheriff’s office has been a “big plus” for the area. Indeed, chaos would ensue in the Hillcrest-Totowa areas at the dismissal John F. Kennedy High School students.
Students vandalized vehicles, created problems for area businesses, and at times blocked vehicular traffic. Those issues have been minimized with the safety corridor. Similar issues existed at dismissal time outside of Eastside High School.
“It’s been working,” said Velez, who represents the 5th Ward, where Eastside High School is located. He said students are no longer blocking entrances to businesses on Park Avenue and Market Street. He said more resources are needed in the area which is “congested with schools.”
Shafer said as many as 3,900 students are released at dismissal time from five schools in the area.
Velez said parents need to do more to prevent their children from hanging outside on Market Street and Park Avenue during after school hours.
“There has to be more parent supervision. Parents want the district to do their part; the police to do their part; but what part are they doing? That’s the problem,” remarked Velez. “There’s no parent involvement.”
Velez witnesses student mischief first hand. He is often out drive around the 5th Ward. “You got kids out here that if you tell them you’re going to speak to their parents, they say, ‘I don’t care, my mother and father don’t care,’” said Velez.
Velez managed to secure a camera from the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office via police for Market and Pennington Streets. He said this has reduced crowd gatherings in the area.
“When they see camera, they don’t stand around there,” said Velez. He said the camera was installed there on Monday. The district’s off-duty officers began patrolling both corridors three weeks ago.
The district has had success with off-duty police. For example, the off-duty officer posted at Edward W. Kilpatrick on Ellison Street helped to crackdown on prostitution in the vicinity of the school, according to district officials.