The following is a description of "Safe Pathways," an outstanding program initiated by the Cincinnati Police Division to combat school violence in our community. This program is currently a work-in-progress, having been implemented as a pilot program in the spring of 1997. To date, three schools have participated in the pilot program.
1. Briefly describe the structure of your program.
The "Safe Pathways" Program was implemented by increasing the presence of uniformed officers, in particular, during the hour before the start of school and the hour at the end of school. The goal was to increase the safety of students who utilized three separate methods of transportation to and from school: walking, taking the school bus, and being dropped off by an adult. A citizenís patrol can be formed to keep watch at each school beginning one hour before school and again one hour at the end of school with the assistance of parents, PTAís, schools, area residents. "Safe Houses," which are along the "Safe Pathways" route, can be identified in each neighborhood where children or the Citizens on Patrol may go to escape the threat of criminal activity. The objective was to provide a safe pathway for students walking to school and home from school.
Implementation of the program takes place in four phases:
PHASE I - Youth Services Section (YSS) of the Cincinnati Police Division initiates the project. Personnel from Youth Services meet with the District Commanders to identify the schools of greatest concern. The walking routes most frequently used by students are identified. YSS provides uniformed personnel on two of the five school days. District officers cover the remaining three days. YSS personnel will also meet with the COP supervisor and the neighborhood officer for the affected school.
PHASE II - The Neighborhood Officer contacts the school principal, PTA, and any community resident or organization for assistance in identifying parents and responsible adults who will walk the Safe Pathway in support of the children. The outerwear will be identifiable as such: bright reflective vest and/or jacket with writing highlighting "Safe Pathways - Community on Patrol." The citizens will carry a whistle and a flashlight. (Funding for purchases of equipment for citizen patrols has been provided in part by a gift from the Cinergy Corporation.)
The COP supervisor maps the routes of students walking to/from school and determines locations for fixed posts for the police officers. Two opposite points become fixed posts for Police Officers during the "Safe Pathways" time frame. The Community on Patrol, when established, walks in the area between the two Police Officers. A third and fourth fixed police post may be identified if necessary. The Community on Patrol walks in the defined area, contacting the Police Officers as they walk the "Safe Pathway."
PHASE III - The Neighborhood Officer contacts the school principal, PTA, and/or any community resident or organization for assistance in identifying parents and responsible adults who live or work in the defined "Safe Pathways" area. The resident agrees to place a placard or sign in their yard or window stating "I support Safe Pathways." The sign will be displayed only when the resident is present and available during the "Safe Pathways" hours. Should either a student or Community on Patrol member need the residentís assistance, the resident can either call the police and provide the nature of the disturbance, or call the school and advise them of the assistance needed. If needed, the resident will provide a place of safety for the student or member of the Community on Patrol.
PHASE IV - Project review and cessation of Police Officers on Fixed Posts. The Community on Patrol members will take control of all fixed posts and walking assignments. A thorough review of all phases will occur for modification and flexibility.
2. When was the program created and why?
A pilot "Safe Pathways" Program was created in the spring of 1997. This was a direct result of a series of assaults and a drive-by shooting in the area of Bond Hill Elementary School. The concept of "Safe Pathways" was born out of the simple premise that no child should be in fear on the way to or from school. Statistically we know that more than 50% of all crimes committed by or against children occur during those hours immediately before or immediately after school. Kids walking to and from bus stops or to school pass by crack houses, drug dealers, cross busy and dangerous intersections, and encounter a variety of problems. The gathering of a large percentage of young people during specific hours, and generally converging at the same places or along the same routes, provides a unique opportunity for these individuals to be targeted for both prevention and intervention. This provides the possibility for a significant reduction in exposure to juvenile victimization.
3. How do you measure the programís effectiveness?
The Cincinnati Police Division uses a fourfold method of measuring the effectiveness of the "Safe Pathways" Program. First, a written survey is taken. In the fall of 1997, 7,443 elementary students were surveyed concerning their perception of fear when either going to or coming home from school. Another survey will be taken by D.A.R.E. Officers in the beginning and end of the 1998/1999 school year to assess changes in the studentís perception of fear. The success of "Safe Pathways" will be indicated in part by a decrease in the percentage of students indicating they are fearful while traveling to and from school. The second method of measurement is pedestrian accident data related to juveniles during the hours before and after school The third unit of measure is the number of police calls for service involving juveniles before and after school. The fourth measurement concerns crime statistics on or near the school property before or after school.
4. How is the program financed?
Most of the cost for "Safe Pathways" will come out of the Police Divisionís operating budget. Because this project is so important to the safety of the community, City Council has approved overtime in the form of Police Visibility Overtime (PVO). This will pay for Officers who staff the fixed posts before and after school. An additional method of financing this program is through corporate sponsors. Cinergy Corporation donated $5000.00 specifically for the "Safe Pathways" Program.
5. How is the community involved, if at all? How has the community responded to the program?
This is a collaborative effort among the Cincinnati Police Division, Cincinnati Public Schools, and Cincinnati City Council supported by the business community. A strong community partnership will be established with the Police Division to improve the quality of life for our children with the future formation of the Community on Patrol, safe places provided by residents and businesses, and before and after school activities provided at churches and libraries.
6. Contact person:
The United States Conference of Mayors
J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
Copyright © 1999, US Conference of Mayors, All rights reserved.