12/19/12 — Officials tightening security at schools

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Officials tightening security at schools

By John Joyce
Published in News on December 19, 2012 1:46 PM

In the aftermath of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., the Mount Olive Police Department and Wayne County Sheriff's Office have been tasked with beefing up security measures at area middle and elementary schools until classes let out for the holiday break.

The Mount Olive Board of Commissioners instructed Mount Olive police to place officers at the schools in town to ensure safety. The board said a more long-term arrangement will be worked out by the time children return to school in January. The Sheriff's Office has been asked to help with additional deputies at other schools in the area as well.

But while the departments share the concern about protecting students, coming up with the resources to make the officers' presence at the school permanent is a question that will have to be answered to make the solution long-term, officials say.

"It will be up to the school system to fund additional officers," said Maj. Daryll Overton of the Sheriff's Office.

The county does not have the manpower to put an officer in every school, Overton said, although there is a resource officer assigned to each one of the county's high schools.

The Wayne County Sheriff's Office has fared better during recent years when many law enforcement agencies have faced cutbacks and spending freezes. But the department still does not have enough money budgeted to place an officer permanently in every school.

The sheriff has assigned four or five officers to assist with this week's surge in protection, but Overton said that move was strictly temporary.

"We will probably go back to what is routine," said Overton of the plan for next year. "We've got plenty of help."

There is a "roaming officer," Cpl. William Kates, who goes around to each school on a daily basis, he said.

"Also, Deputy Brandy Jones, who teaches our Community Oriented Police Enforcement classes to fifth-graders, when she's not teaching, checks on the schools and looks into anything they might need," Overton said.

Within the city, security will remain pretty much the same, Goldsboro police Chief Jeff Stewart said.

For the past few months, as part of the police department's community policing program, random patrols and a stronger police presence in and around the schools have been standard procedure.

The city budgeted nearly $100,000 through the end of this year to implement the new programs, which are intended to cut down on violent crime, but that did not include preparedness for a scenario such as the one that unfolded in Connecticut.

The hope is to take what the city has given them and deter any sort of a copycat act in one of Goldsboro's schools, officials said.

"We're being proactive. Officers are going to eat lunch with the students and not just cruising through the parking lots, but actually walking through the schools," Stewart said. Some of the officers have even volunteered, in the wake of Newtown, to go on their off time and be at the schools.

As usual, law enforcement is concerned with prevention. An active-shooter exercise was held at Wayne Community College in August, with the Sheriff's Office, Goldsboro police, Wayne County EMS and fire rescue, the state Highway Patrol and the State Bureau of Investigation all participating.

Overton said he is certain that another exercise will be held next year to assess what has changed and what areas can be improved upon, with lessons learned from Newtown.

"We're going to look at it again, I'm sure. We're going to make sure and keep everybody up to par," he said.