With the start of the 2019-20 school year approaching, I’d like to take the opportunity to share some key details with the community about the enhanced measures being taken by the Westfield Police Department designed to make our streets safer for all.
Enhanced Speed Limit and Parking Enforcement
As we recently announced, the WPD will be increasing its efforts to enforce speed limit laws throughout the Town in order to further promote pedestrian safety. With the arrival of the back-to-school season, the time is right to take additional steps to ensure our motorists are complying accordingly.
Strict enforcement will include a lower threshold of tolerance over the posted speed limits in order to promote positive behavioral changes among drivers. In addition, Westfield Police will be utilizing a new, low profile radar enforcement car, as well as a police motorcycle newly equipped with a compact computer and printer set up for electronic ticketing. Our officers will also be more heavily enforcing pedestrian right of way laws to further improve safety in school zones, downtown, and throughout Westfield.
New Crossing Guard Program
The Town of Westfield maintains a very large and robust crossing guard program – perhaps one of the largest for a municipality of Westfield’s size – staffing over 50 daily crossing guard posts. The training, scheduling and supervision of crossing guards is an extremely time-consuming endeavor and one that has increasingly necessitated the Westfield Police Department to assign Police Officers to crossing guard posts on a daily basis, just to meet minimal staffing needs. This has significantly impacted our officers’ ability to respond to actual emergencies and other calls for service, and has also precluded them from conducting traffic and parking enforcement during those times of day – when our streets and roads are their busiest.
As a result, the Town of Westfield recently contracted on a one-year, trial basis with All City Management Services (ACMS) to oversee the management of the crossing guard program. ACMS successfully manages some 6,000 crossing guards in 25 states, and brings more than 30 years of experience to our program. This is a decision which I strongly support, as it will allow the Westfield Police Department to refocus its efforts on its key law enforcement priorities while also providing our crossing guards with the dedicated support and expertise to help them succeed.
With this transition, crossing guards are now employees of ACMS and subject to its training, supervision and evaluation. All those who wished to continue in the program remain assigned to their previous posts. All will receive pay raises, new equipment, more robust training, and additional benefits such as paid snow days.
The Westfield Police Department is fully committed to ensuring the success of our crossing guard program and will work hand-in-hand with ACMS to ensure a smooth transition of services. Our crossing guards have performed admirably in the past and I expect that they will continue to do so in the future. However, as is the case with the start of each new school year, the public should rightfully anticipate some congestion in the busier intersections near the schools and plan accordingly by considering carpooling, alternative routes, or simply allowing extra time to navigate these areas. During this initial adjustment period, Police Officers will be present in the areas of schools to assist crossing guards and to address those specific traffic and parking violations which cause delays and congestion.
Unquestionably, school days bring traffic, and each post has its own unique challenges. It is important to remember that the function of a crossing guard is to provide additional protection to any person crossing a street in a marked crosswalk at an assigned location during the school season. While this includes stopping vehicles to allow for safe crossing, keep in mind that directing traffic is not part of their responsibilities that the public should expect. I strongly encourage everyone to follow the directions of crossing guards and Police Officers as they perform their duties. I assure you, both will do their very best to facilitate efficient and effective traffic flow.
With an increased number of cars on our roads during school drop-off and pick-up times, it’s a good time to reinforce some basic tips that, with a little extra care and caution, help create an environment of safety in our school zones. Our website has very helpful information regarding best practices for school drop-offs/pick-ups, as well as sharing the road with cyclists, school buses and young pedestrians.
On a separate note regarding school safety, Dr. [Margaret] Dolan will soon be distributing information regarding updated security protocols. The Westfield Police Department has worked closely with the Board of Education and their security consultants over the summer, with my ongoing commitment to provide any and all support needed to address opportunities for improvement.
I wish you all a very safe and successful 2019-20 school year. Please know, as both the Chief of Police and as a parent of three school-aged children, ensuring the safety of your children has been and will remain one of my foremost priorities.
Chief Christopher Battiloro
Westfield Police Department