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Chambersburg schools might get troopers

September 14, 2008|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - Pennsylvania State Police troopers could be walking the halls of the Chambersburg Area School District under a proposal by Director of Security Brett Hill.

The district covers 250 square miles, but the current agreement with the Chambersburg Police Department provides for Hill and one school resource officer to handle security at the high school, middle school and 15 elementary schools.

That is a lot of ground to cover, most of it outside the borough of Chambersburg, said Hill, who was hired as the district's first security director earlier this year.

The school resource officer program began in the 1950s, with officers patrolling hallways, but state troopers did not get involved until about five years ago, said Cpl. Timothy J. Golletti. Five troopers serve a total of 40 hours a week in the Central Dauphin School District, he said.

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"I've always felt we should do more for the kids," said Golletti, who once worked as a substitute teacher.

The presence of troopers in Central Daquphin High School reduced juvenile crime 30 percent in the first year, he said.

Sgt. Gary Carter, the Criminal Investigation Unit supervisor at the Chambersburg barracks said four to six troopers could provide coverage for the school district.

"We're not looking to take anything from anyone," Carter said, referring to the Chambersburg police department. State police would augment the current program, he said.

Troopers, could reduce juvenile crime by their uniformed presence inside schools and deter crime by the presence of marked cruisers outside schools, Golletti said. Troopers could also teach students about drugs and bicycle and driving safety and counsel those who are at risk of crossing over to criminal behavior, he said.

Because troopers would volunteer to work overtime, it would not pull them off of regular patrols and investigations, Carter said. The cost would be $42 to $50 an hour for a trooper, according to a summary provided by the district.

Eric Michael, Chambersburg Area School District assistant superintendent, said he would present the board with staffing scenarios and cost estimates at a future meeting.

Troopers occasionally show up at elementary schools to meet with administrators, teachers and students, often prompting phone calls and e-mails from parents wondering why police are at the schools, Carter said. However, Hill said he receives e-mails from the schools thanking state police for making their presence known through those visits.

"You would have these troopers for set hours," Carter said, Scheduling would be decided between the police and the district, he said.

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