Program pushes Detroit students’ safety for coming school year

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News
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Detroit – — When students return to school next week, some will notice bright, painted footprints leading them to their buildings.

It’s all part of a plan to make their travels to school safer.

The footprints are part of 34 “safety zones” created around public schools in Detroit. The safety plan, which also will involve volunteer patrols and monitoring of school areas by police agencies including the Detroit Public Schools police, Detroit Police Department and Michigan State Police, is part of local efforts coordinated through the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention.

Members of the initiative, including U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade and DPS Emergency Manager Jack Martin, held a news conference Wednesday at the Detroit Public Safety Headquarters to discuss the Detroit program’s work to try and stamp out or reduce youth violence.

Martin said the issue of students’ safety ranks higher, among parents, than academics.

“Safety is one of the most, if not the most critical issue we face,” Martin said.

The forum is a 4-year-old program implemented by the White House and is active in 10 cities throughout the United States including Boston and Chicago. The program brings together law enforcement, school and other civic officials to work toward solutions to crack down on youth violence.

In Detroit, the goal also is to get young people jobs. Deputy Detroit Mayor Isaiah McKinnon said the city hopes to have 5,000 jobs for young people next year.

McQuade said Detroit’s program has four areas of focus: safe routes to school, safety stations in schools to dispense helpful information to students, implementation of a cease-fire program for current and former gang members and summer job programs for youngsters.

Officials from the White House, the Department of Justice and the Department of Housing and Urban Development were in town on Detroit’s anti-violence youth initiative Wednesday.

Assistant Detroit Police Chief James White said: “We are excited about the opportunity. We have to do more for the youth.”

McQuade said the neighborhood around Cody High School on the city’s west side has seen a 12 percent reduction in violent crimes and an 18 percent drop in property crime since the implementation of the program in 2010.

McQuade said while she doesn’t know if the reduction can be directly tied to the Youth Violence Prevention program “it’s good know we’re trending in the right direction.”

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