Issued Sept. 20, 2019

As Mayor Brindle indicated earlier this week, the Westfield Police Department has been working very closely alongside our new crossing guard firm, All City Management Services (ACMS) in a partnership to best position this new program for long-term success. In addition to my daily drive-by checkpoints throughout Town, I had the opportunity yesterday to meet with members of the ACMS management team, Mayor Brindle, Town Administrator Jim Gildea, and our two local ACMS supervisors.

Now that we are two weeks into the new school year, I’d like to provide an update on the program and the improvements we will be making as a result of ACMS’ initial assessments.

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Staffing

More than 75% of our previous crossing guards remained with the program this year. ACMS has since recruited additional employees, all of whom will soon complete their training in order to be working their posts by the end of next week. This will bring us to a near fully trained and staffed program. In addition, recruitment and hiring remains ongoing in order to build a deep bench of substitute guards.

ACMS promoted two of our guards — Rick Smith and Ron Kutney — into supervisory roles.  As former law enforcement officials, Rick and Ron are both tremendous assets to the program. Once the posts are fully staffed, they will be able to spend their time observing and assessing posts throughout Town on a daily basis and recommend improvements as needed. We are very fortunate to have them on board.

Upcoming Improvements

We recognize that the sheer volume of cars on the road during school drop-off and pick-up hours inherently causes congestion. With the strict implementation of the law prohibiting crossing guards from directing traffic, some improvements need to be made to help manage traffic in the most heavily affected areas.

Following our initial assessments, we will be taking some immediate measures to improve crossing conditions and pedestrian safety in these key intersections: Grove and Rahway; Rahway and Dorian; Westfield and Park; and Clark and Dudley.

Training and Implementation: You will see changes in the crossing procedures at these locations as early as next week, which will include reducing the number of open crosswalks from four to two in order to streamline the crossing pattern.

Legislation: Following a meeting of the Town Council Public Safety and Transportation Committee last night, there will be an ordinance introduced at Tuesday night’s Town Council meeting to prohibit left hand turns at Rahway & Dorian, and allow for right turns only from Grove onto Rahway during school crossing times.

Best Practices For All

As we execute these changes, we will continue to assess other areas of congestion and seek out additional solutions. These may include the addition of a second crossing guard in some intersections, as well as changes in road striping and signage. Everyone has a role to play as we work through any remaining concerns to emphasize a culture of pedestrian safety.

ACMS: Crossing guards at all busy posts have been instructed to wait for larger groups of students to gather, rather than cross small groups, thus allowing fewer traffic disruptions. This requires some patience on the students’ part – it’s akin to waiting the amount of time for a traffic light to change and for the “walk” signal to appear.

Westfield Police: The WPD will continue to maintain a presence at some of the busier intersections as we see this transition period through. Their purpose there is not to direct traffic, but to assist with motorist compliance of traffic and parking laws that, when violated, exacerbate the congestion. This includes illegal U-turns, double parking in school drop-off zones, and ignoring stop signs.

Residents: As we do our part, we continue to ask for our residents to make adjustments in their routines by carpooling more, leaving more travel time, and considering alternate routes/drop-off points -- all of which are extremely helpful.

I want to close by telling you that, through this transition, I have heard one common point of feedback from the crossing guards: Your children are consistently polite, well-mannered, and respectful of the guards and the job that they do — and that does not go unnoticed. Thank you for your continued patience and cooperation as we prioritize safety above all else.