PROJECT SAFE WALK
1. Briefly describe the structure of your program.
It is the mission of PROJECT SAFE WALK to provide identified and monitored routes for elementary and middle school children to walk to and from their schools. The project provides a visible deterrent to potential wrongdoers and a comfort to walking students.
PROJECT SAFE WALK is staffed with volunteers. Some of these volunteers are out on the routes when children walk to and from school. They are readily identifiable by a common uniform. The uniform includes a mandatory vest and hat, and may include an optional Sheriff’s Volunteer uniform. They provide a visible deterrent to potential wrongdoers and give students a recognizable person to go to in the time of need.
Phase II of PROJECT SAFE WALK provides Volunteers with marked Sheriff’s vehicles. Safe Walk Volunteers orbit middle and high school campuses before and after school hours. This greatly reduces disturbances and other incidents off campus, before and after school. Phase II enhances the peace in neighborhoods surrounding these schools.
PROJECT SAFE WALK is administered jointly by Eastside School District, Lancaster School District, and the Sheriff’s Department. The City of Lancaster is a cosponsor of the project and provides the minimal funding required by the program.
The school districts are responsible for the recruitment, scheduling, and timekeeping of volunteers. The Sheriff’s Department is responsible for the screening and training of volunteers.
Volunteers are credentialed Sheriff’s Department Volunteers and become part of the Lancaster Station’s volunteer roster. The school districts and the Sheriff’s Department reserve the right to deny or cancel participation of any volunteer for cause, which need not be stated publicly. All school district and Sheriff’s Department regulations are in effect.
2. When was the program created and why?
PROJECT SAFE WALK was created in 1997. The sight of children walking to and from school is a common one. Most of us have joined in the experience at one time or another and probably look back on those times with fond memories. This is as it should be and we certainly want the same for our children today.
Unfortunately, today’s society is plagued with more than its share of danger. Those dangers are present almost everywhere, everyday, including on the walk to and from school. The threat of gang violence, gang recruitment, narcotics, and sexual child abuse seem to have become commonplace to our daily lives. While the City of Lancaster is relatively free of these horrors, it is not immune. We owe it to ourselves and our children to remain diligent. It is to this end that the Lancaster Crime Task Force, the City of Lancaster, and Lancaster School District, and the Lancaster Station of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department have joined to create a novel approach to student safety know as PROJECT SAFE WALK.
3. How do you measure the program’s effectiveness?
PROJECT SAFE WALK is now in its second year and has proven to be a great success. Safe Walk Volunteers are dedicated, and their numbers continue to grow. The program has received interest and approval from California State Senator Pete Knight, California State Assemblyman George Runner, and United States Congressman Buck McKeon.
The project was on exhibit at the Los Angeles Contract Cities’ Sheriff’s and City Manager’s Conference in January 1998, and the California Office of Transportation and Safety Conference in Sacramento in February 1998, at the May 1998 California Contract Cities’ Conference in Palm Springs, California.
4. How is the program financed?
The City of Lancaster provides funding for signs, vests and caps for volunteers.
5. How is the community involved in the program, if at all? How has the community responded to the program?
Students and parents alike find comfort in seeing the uniformed volunteers in place. Volunteers are excited about the valuable service they provide. Although results are difficult to measure, we believe the volunteer presence has indeed suppressed dangerous activities, such as speeding, illegal parking, gang and narcotic activity, and loitering around school grounds. One Safe Walk Volunteer noticed two boys walking to school carrying a handgun. His alert observation and timely notification of Sheriff’s personnel led to the capture of the students and recovery of a stolen .357 magnum pistol. In light of the recent tragedies we have seen on the Nation’s school campuses, it is no stretch to assume that PROJECT SAFE WALK may have averted a similar fate to Lancaster students.
6. Contact person:
The United States Conference of Mayors
J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
Copyright © 1999, US Conference of Mayors, All rights reserved.