'Project Safe Start' protects kids as summer break starts

May 31, 2011 3:11:24 PM PDT
Local religious leaders, police and school officials are again teaming up to make sure summer vacation starts off on a safe note for students with Project Safe Start 2011. The program has been around for more than two decades but the nature of school violence has changed and that's why there are some new approaches to make sure Houston area kids have a safe start to the summer.

The safe schools partnership between HPD, school district officers and local ministers has evolved into a very sophisticated network of officers and reverends who share information about criminal activity surrounding local schools.

The last part of any school year is often the most violent time, so districts tell us they are ramping up their officer patrols -- some putting more officers inside schools to get word of planned activities that could erupt outside.

There were fights this year at three local high schools that were out of control, and four murders took place this year near school campuses. Some fights involved 50 to 60 kids at a time in districts like Spring and North Forest, so those districts are changing their approach. They are moving shifts around to have day, evening and night officers present to prevent crime after school.

Also the Houston police have improved technology allowing real-time monitoring of school violence by HPD, and allowing the districts direct communication with officers in the area so they can respond to events more quickly.

Assistant Chief Brian Lumpkin with HPD North Patrol said, "We got real-time information coming in to a real-time crime center letting us know if there's any issues or concerns or problems festering, or have occurred, so we can respond rapidly."

"This year we've seen an increase in after-school gang fights and large fights that we've had in our areas," said Spring Branch ISD Chief CA Brawner. "So we've developed our intelligence to find out which groups are having issues with each other and we're trying to intercede in those so that the last two or three days of school we're not going to be chasing gang fights through the northwest section of the Houston area," said Spring Branch ISD Chief CA Brawner.

Chief Brawner added that they are aware of which gangs are planning some violent events after school and they feel they have a good handle on the situation.

Another issue we asked about was the closing of public pools, and how it could increase crime involving kids. HPD says parks that are alternatives to pools will need more supervision.

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