POUGHKEEPSIE – The City of Poughkeepsie Police Department has assigned Officer Karen Zirbel to both the middle and high schools as a school resource officer (SRO).
Zirbel announced her desire to revive the dormant “Safe Passages Home” program to help stem the after-school violence that has been taking place almost daily since school started in September.
According to the officer, after-school violence has been so bad that several students have needed medical attention. She wants that to stop. “This behavior is unacceptable.”
Zirbel is seeking community volunteers to help keep the kids safe. “I am hoping that community members and organizations like SNUG will volunteer to help keep the kids safe after school.”
The SRO is having an informational meeting in the Community Room at the Public Safety Building on Tuesday, October 15. The building is located at 505 Main Street and the meeting is scheduled to start at 4:30 p.m. The meeting is open to the public and Officer Zirbel is hoping that community groups and the general public will attend to learn more about the program and possibly offer suggestions to improve the plan.
Zirbel is seeking to have volunteers stationed at pre-determined locations as the children are dismissed from school. Highly visible identifying vests will be provided by the city’s Police Athletic League so that children can identify the people in place to keep them safe.
Zirbel said it would be beneficial to have parents take a more active role in protecting the students. “It can’t always be finger-pointing at the schools for the student behavior.” She noted that school administrators and security guards do a tremendous job of patrolling the school property borders at dismissal but problems are arising off of school property.
Poughkeepsie Schools Superintendent Dr. Eric Rosser called Zirbel’s initiative ” a great idea,” and pointed to the African proverb that says “It takes a village.”
The newly appointed superintendent said that this is one more opportunity for the district and community to work together on behalf of the children.
Dr. Rosser did point out that not all detrimental behavior that is displayed after-school is carried out by Poughkeepsie students. Zirbel echoed that sentiment and said that having volunteers who are known and who know the Poughkeepsie children will help dissuade students from other areas from instigating trouble on Poughkeepsie streets. City Councilwoman Yvonne Flowers praised the plan saying “It’s a very good program. It’s a perfect opportunity for community members to step up and help keep our kids safe.”