Prince George’s County is making safety a priority this school year as it revamps its in-school security program and makes the streets outside of campuses safer.

The first thing the county is doing is allowing the police department to take over the security detail of the county’s middle high schools from the Office of the Sheriff. In one vain, this is being done to help the sheriff’s department catch up on old warrants, but the key is to make sure the police are the first responders to any incident.

Officers securing schools will be known as school resource officers (SRO) and after a number of highly publicized security lapses, police officials say it’s a natural fit for them to be involved in securing the schools.

“As first responders to any incident in the school system and as the agency responsible for investigating any serious events on school grounds, officers from within the police department are a natural fit to serve as SROs,” said Prince George‘s Police Chief Mark Magaw in a statement. “They will work closely with principals, security personnel and faculty on a daily basis to set the foundation for a successful police/school partnership,”

The officers are assigned to particular schools on a full-time basis and are expected to work with counselors and other staff on issues that schools face.

In addition to this, schools will have access to a gang education and intelligence unit to provide information on gangs to all elementary and secondary school students and parents as well as addressing any fears those students and parents may have.

There is also the brand new campus crime solvers program in which the police department will work with each school’s department of security services in an effort to reduce crime. It isn’t expected to be in all schools until fiscal year 2013.

The county is poised to create a safer environment outside of schools too as it steps up enforcement of speeding in school zones. The joint effort between the police department and Department of Public Works and Transportation is meant to provide pedestrian and child safety in a half-mile radius around schools. The county has now set up cameras in designated areas to catch violators traveling 12 mph more than the posted speed limit.

“Our top priority is the safety of our students and those who live and work in Prince George’s County,” Magaw said. “Speeding is a significant public safety issue and the mere presence of the cameras will deter aggressive driving behaviors.”

If anyone is caught in the first month, they will be let off with a warning. Beginning Sept. 21, speeding citations of $40 will be issued to anyone exceeding the 12 mph buffer zone. The program is in implementation at 26 school zones throughout the county.


George Barnette

Special to the AFRO