By Sheriff Michael J. Filicetti
Niagara County Sheriff’s Office
A new school year is about to begin, and many preparations are undertaken by parents across Niagara County. Many are out purchasing the latest in backpacks or new clothes to start the year out.
In law enforcement, we have that same excitement as a new school year is about to begin for the kiddos in our communities. Our planning and considerations revolve around keeping our school children safe. That starts the minute they walk out the door to get on their school bus or walk to school. It continues once they are at school, and then make it home safely to their loved ones at the end of the school day.
I want you to know that school safety is a top priority for law enforcement in Niagara County.
Let’s talk bus safety on the first day of school. With the influx of buses hitting the road, there will be more traffic on the roadways. Please allow yourself more time to get to your destination in the morning. More traffic on the road is going to increase your commute time. Please stop for all buses when they have flashing lights activated. This applies on two-lane roadways, multi-lane roadways and divided highways. Our buses are carrying precious cargo – follow the law to avoid tragic consequences. Patrols will be observant for bus traffic and watching for violators as school begins.
Many steps have been taken to make our schools safer here in Niagara County. Many school districts have made significant investments in technology aimed at protecting the children under their care. These advancements are an effort to detect weapons, restrict entry, and identify individuals that should not be on school grounds.
It hasn’t stopped there. Law enforcement and school officials meet to discuss school safety and other related topics. A recent meeting included several tabletop exercises to increase continuity between law enforcement and school administration during an emergency.
I would say that these types of interactions are critical, should a high-stress incident develop on a school campus. Partnerships across this county now include school resource officers at all of our public-school districts. The SRO plays an important role in maintaining security, discussing safety concerns with school officials and acting as a liaison with responding law enforcement should a critical incident take place.
Another key component is training, training, training! I need to thank our partner law enforcement agencies from the federal, state and local level for working together on some terrific training for our law enforcement. Reality-based training has been provided on several occasions using school settings with a multi-jurisdictional response from several agencies. This training is the key to being prepared, should a response be needed at one of our local schools.
One final note: You will see an expanded police presence around the schools to provide extra peace of mind that we are keeping an eye on things. I don’t want our presence to cause any additional angst for parents, teachers or children.
On the first day of school and throughout the school year, know that your Niagara County Law Enforcement will be there to watch over your kids.
I hope all of your children have a great year at school!