”We definitely increased our visibility,” Hightstown Police Director James LeTellier said in March.
According to Mr. LeTellier, the department did over 104 patrols in February.
”We are expanding our community policing,” Mr. LeTellier added.
”I have gotten nothing but positive feedback back from staff and the principal about the officers,” Mr. LeTellier said. “The younger kids have been asking to take pictures with the officers and asking them different types of questions so it’s very positive feedback.”
”I have not heard too much except for a few parents commenting favorably when seeing police in the vicinity,” said Dr. Forsthoffer in a March email.
”We started this after Connecticut (shooting),” Mr. LeTellier said.
Dr. Forsthoffer reiterates there has always been a police presence.
”Actually, it has always existed because the school district has had a very positive and proactive relationship with both police forces,” Dr. Forsthoffer said in March.
Dr. Forsthoffer spoke with Mr. LeTellier and Chief James Monahan of the East Windsor Police Department after the Connecticut shootings and invited them to visit the schools when they are in the area, according to Dr. Forsthoffer.
To Chief Monahan, school safety has always been a “high priority.”
According to Walter C. Black Principal Heidi Franzo this is “really nothing new.”
”The officers are not patrolling the schools, rather visiting the school or grounds,” said Principal Franzo said in a March email. “By visiting the schools they are familiar with the building, structure and layout. They interact with faculty and students and both are more comfortable with their (visits) and presence.”
”The Police Department has conducted school zone enforcement assignments at each of the schools located within the township,” Chief Monahan said. “School zone enforcement involves the presence of a uniformed police officer on school property at a point during the school day.”
According to Dr. Forsthoffer, this “identified a couple of breaches” since the Connecticut incident and the district has “remedied” the issues.
The East Windsor Township Police Department coordinates periodic training within school district facilities to remain familiar with structures and operations. Specific training details are ordinarily not discussed publicly, according to Chief Monahan.
Principal Silvana Zircher of the Ethel McKnight Elementary School agreed with other principals in the school district that there is a “positive and proactive relationship” with the local police department.
”Yes we are aware of the Homeland Security visits but we have not received one as of this time,” Dr. Forsthoffer said recently.
According to the memo, the state will conduct a small number of unannounced school visits by staff from the Department of Education and Homeland Security.
The visits have two goals: provide targeted support to individual schools and, share information learned with others across the state to support their collective effort, according to the memo.
”I met with the superintendent and the principal of the high school (Alix Arvizu) about several issues and addressed the concern for safety of the children and what we could do to help improve safety overall,” said Mr. LeTellier in March.
”The Hightstown Police Department and Hightstown High School/East Windsor Regional School District have enjoyed a very good working relationship throughout my seven-year tenure here,” said Principal Arvizu on April 1.
”Dr. Forsthoffer and I met with Director LeTellier and Lt. (Frank) Gendron on March 6 to discuss, among other topics, school security,” Principal Arvizu added.
According to Principal Arvizu, the officers stop at a security booth and then walk through the entire building.
”Frequently, patrol cars ride through the parking lots and the surrounding neighborhoods as well,” Principal Arvizu added. “It is comforting to know that every community resource available, from within the school and from without, is being employed to help to keep us all safe.”
According to Principal Arvizu, Principal LeTellier suggested having “police presence” on the high school campus.
”While we are a small department, we cannot commit a full-time officer as school resource officer,” Mr. LeTeller said. “I’ve worked out where each officer during their shift has to visit and patrol each of the schools.”
According to Mr. LeTellier, these patrols are “random” and occur at no designated times throughout the officers’ shift. The patrols can overlap and can also occur during any free time the officers may have.
Officers — two to four throughout the day are on shift — patrol the Hightstown High School, Walter C. Black and the Grace N. Rogers schools, including after-school activities. In addition to the patrols on duty, the detectives in unmarked cars will also monitor the schools as well as the special class officers, according to Mr. LeTellier.
”They visit not only with the administration and staff members but with the children,” Mr. LeTellier said.
”We are there to just add security to the school system and work with the administration to be a deterrent,” Mr. LeTellier said. “Our officers are trained to look for suspicious activities or anybody that sticks out and with the cooperation of the school staff, we can easily respond to a particular situation.”