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School Gang Prevention Safe Passage Program (California)

By: SafeState

What is a School Gang Prevention Safe Passage Program?

The objective of a Safe Passage program is to create a multi-agency enforcement partnership to provide safety from gang-related crimes against high school students on specific streets, at bus stops and on bus lines immediately around the school one hour after dismissal. A Safe Passage program can stand alone, however, it is most successful if implemented as one component of a multi-faceted safe school strategy that complements the mandated School Safety Plan. A structured Safe Passage plan allows schools, law enforcement, and the community to pinpoint "hot spots" for gang and related trouble on and around campus, and allows the district to respond to gaps and challenges and to examine district-wide safety issues.

Safety Collaboratives

Over the past few years, a number of high schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District have formed Safety Collaboratives, in response to increasing violence and racial tensions on and off campus. These collaboratives bring together agency and community stakeholders, to identify problems, brainstorm solutions, and mobilize resources. The California Community Relations Service (CCRS) was a member on one of these first collaboratives, as the conflicts at school were spilling into the community.

As the collaboratives began meeting, a number of them recognized "safe passage" as a key safety issue for students. Students reported that they felt most unsafe, not on campus, but in the community as they moved to and from campus. Students reported being the victim of armed robberies, gang harassment and intimidation, drive-by shootings, and other crimes.

How did the California Community Relations Service (CCRS) get involved?

The collaboratives began to form subcommittees to deal with this important issue. These Safe Passage Subcommittees involve law enforcement, as well as representatives from the school board, the school district, local government, transportation agencies, and community-based organizations. As an outside, neutral third party, CCRS was asked by the principals at these schools to bring the appropriate agencies to the table, and to facilitate the process of starting Safe Passage programs. CCRS has been responsible for contacting agency partners, developing meeting agendas, providing notice for meetings, facilitating meetings, and producing meeting minutes.

"Safe Passage" Program Components

CCRS has worked with two models of Safe Passage programs, which can operate alone, or concurrently:

Fixed-Post Parent Volunteer Safe Passage Program:

  • Work with local government, community, and faith partners to mobilize and recruit parent volunteers.
  • Law enforcement and school district to provide training for parent volunteers on safety precautions, radio use, reporting crimes, and other issues.
  • Parent volunteers to be posted around the school campus at target times, helping to protect students as they travel home from school.
  • Volunteers positioned so as to complement existing law enforcement efforts.

Multi-Agency Collaborative Effort (Subcommittee):

  • Law enforcement, probation, school administrators and staff agree to deploy available personnel within the identified "safe passage" boundaries at school dismissal time. Law enforcement agrees to support the efforts of parent volunteers.
  • Partner transportation agencies agree to assess student bus ridership, bus line efficiency, and bus stop crowding and safety issues during dismissal hours.

"Safe Passage" Accomplishments:

  • Monthly subcommittee meetings are held, attended by representatives of law enforcement (lieutenant or higher), probation, city attorney, housing authority, school administrators, district representatives, community representatives, MTA, and other agencies.
  • Students report feeling safer, because of increased presence of adults and safety personnel around campus.
  • Principals have reported increased visibility of law enforcement around the campus at dismissal time and increased coordination between law enforcement agencies and school administrators.
  • The local transportation agency has conducted an audit of student bus ridership, to assess bus travel patterns and problem areas. In some cases, the agency has agreed to move bus stops, or add extra busses to their route patterns.
  • Human Relations Commissions and district personnel have conducted extensive parent volunteer recruitment efforts in the community and have conducted "safe passage" orientation and training for potential volunteers.

Ongoing Implementation Plan for "Safe Passage":

  • Law enforcement agencies dedicate available resources during dismissal times at many of the schools, and in some cases, instruct extra patrol to be in the area.
  • Continued assessment of "hot spots": Subcommittees continue to share information on areas of high crime, student congestion, and other problems, so that as circumstances change, there is constant information-sharing.

Any school which would like to start a Safe Passage Program to protect students going to and from school is encouraged to contact:

Aisha Martin-Walton, Chief
California Community Relations Service
Office of the Attorney General
Crime and Violence Prevention Center
1300 I Street, Suite 1150
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 323-6744
Fax: (916) 327-2384.