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J-D School Board: Safety concerns aired

Safety programs brought to light at Jamesville-DeWitt's Sept. 10 board meeting reinforced the DeWitt Police Department's presence within the district's schools. At the beginning of each school year, Police Chief Eugene Conway briefs board members with an overview on what the department does when interacting with schools and students.

New to the police department is a 13-member Emergency Services Team (EST) which is similar to SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) but offers more, Conway said. The team is specially trained in weapons, tactics and entries.

"There was actually a period of time upwards of a year where there was no emergency services team in [the DeWitt] area," Conway said, explaining that the Sheriff's Department has an EST but it was actually taken out of service for almost a year.

Prior to the creation of DeWitt's EST, if a crisis occurred within the town or school district, the closest responding agency would have been the State Police, which, Conway said, could have taken them up to four hours to bring in the entire team to help.

Uniformed police security can be seen at sporting events, proms and senior dances, at after-prom parties and performing traffic control. These are off-duty officers provided by the DeWitt Police Benevolent Association (PBA) who work part-time and are approved by Conway.

Youth Investigator John Anton acts as liaison to the entire list of schools within DeWitt. He works closely with all levels of education, from elementary to high school.

Programs he covers among elementary students include bus safety, Halloween safety and Officer Friendly. Among sixth grade students, Anton focuses on Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE), while high school kids are taught defensive driving through a four-hour summer course called Alive at 25. Three officers are certified to teach this program, Conway said.

Conway pointed out that over the last three years there was a significant drop in attendance for the Alive at 25 course. In 2005, 213 juniors and seniors signed up for the course. In 2006, there were 238 students enrolled. The drop came in 2007 with a mere 90 attendees.

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