Police look to increase school resource officers

The Cranston Herald ·

A new $100,000 line item called “school safety initiative” is on the police department’s proposed budget for next year. The money would pay for an increase in police presence at Cranston’s schools.

Finance Committee Chairman Michael Favicchio, who is also the head of a sub-committee on school safety, said that there would “hopefully” be a report by next week that will have recommendations for how much money should be allotted to the department for this initiative. He said that the number might be able to get bumped up to $120,000.

That figure is based on Police Chief Michael Winquist saying that for a one full-time police detail it would cost $60,000. If allotted $100,000 the additional $40,000 would “probably be used up quickly,” he said, whereas $120,000 would allow for two additional officers at a time.

Winquist said that the city already has four full-time school resource officers (SROs), one at each of the high schools, one for the four middle schools, and one for the elementary schools. Winquist said that it would cost $1.2 million to have a full-time SRO at all 24 schools in the city.

He said those officers create a feeling of safety for the students at the schools and do regular walkthroughs to check on the school buildings.

The extra detail would not be an addition of school resource officers, but rather Cranston police working details at the schools. Winquist said that the officer on duty would move from school to school across the city (where an SRO isn’t already stationed), spending time at different schools each day to increase police presence.

“We would have a more reliable presence,” Winquist told the Council during the hearing.

The detail would be from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and would be for every day of the school year. It would utilize the police already on staff, rather than hiring any new officers to be at the schools, according to the Chief.

He said there was no guarantee that a police officer would be able to cover a school on any given day without an increase in the budget. He said a plan would still need to be finalized for how the officers on detail would be scheduled at the different schools throughout the year.

Councilman Chris Paplauskas also took the opportunity Monday to ask Chief Winquist, who was there alongside second in command Todd Patalano, about break-ins around the community, especially in the Dean Estates and Stone Hill neighborhoods. Paplauskas suggested community meetings, which Winquist said the police department would be happy to attend.

Winquist discussed the camera registration program that the police department has, which encourages Cranston residents who have home security cameras to register with the police department, so police can access those photos only when a crime was committed at a nearby home.

The number of sex offenders in the city was a topic brought up by Councilman Ken Hopkins, and Winquist said that at Harrington Hall shelter there are 23 level three offenders, 11 number twos, and five level ones. Winquist said that the department has a full-time detective who does regular compliance checks on them and is “on top of who is there.”

In total, the Cranston Police Department has 140 officers and did roughly 80,000 runs in the last year, he said. The proposed operating budget for the coming fiscal year for the police department is $24,644,184.