STERLING HEIGHTS (WWJ/AP) - Police in Sterling Heights say they are starting to randomly visit some elementary and junior high schools to enhance security in the wake of mass school shootings elsewhere.
Officers in Sterling Heights are launching twice-a-day visits Tuesday at the Utica Community School District’s three junior high schools and 11 elementary schools. The patrols include visiting with administrators, getting a status report of activities and walking through school halls.
The city’s two high schools, Henry Ford II and Stevenson, will continue to be served by school safety officers on their campuses.
The actions come after a deadly rampage last month at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. They grew out of meetings between Utica Community Schools Superintendent Christine Johns and Sterling Heights Police Chief Michael Reese.
“We have worked very closely with the school district to improve security measures and we feel that they are doing everything they can to be proactive and responsive to potential future threats,” Reese said in a statement.
“On our end, the Sterling Heights Police Department also realized that we needed to strengthen our security procedures and that included being more visible at school buildings and campuses during the day,” he continued.
The Utica Community Schools’ Board of Education recently approved permanent security enhancements that allow entrances at all elementary and junior high schools to remain locked throughout the school day.
The enhanced security detail also calls for an audio and video link between the main office and the entrance to be installed, along with the ability to release the door latch to allow entry to the building. Installation of this new security system will take place over the next few months.
Browning Elementary Principal Tricia Hassell, whose school was the first to benefit from the new installation of an enhanced entrance security system, explained that while Browning has always been a safe school, the added security has been well received by staff, parents and students.
“This enhanced partnership shows that the police department and the schools are working together to make sure that everybody is safe because we care about every single child here at Browning Elementary and every staff member. This is just an extra security measure to make sure that everyone is safe,” she said.
Lee Gasowski, whose children attend Browning, also appreciates the extra security measures instituted and praised city and school leaders for enacting proactive initiatives.
“I really like how both parties have stepped up the game a little bit more,” Gasowski said. “They’ve always had good security here before and it is nice that they’ve added the security systems at the entrance doors. It is a little bit safer in that regard and it makes me feel better.”
Police say they are talking with officials in the Warren Consolidated Schools about similar measures.
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