Moorestown Police are beginning to make their presence felt throughout all the township's schools by doing random pop-ins, in light of the heightened sensitivity to school security.
Police spokesman Lt. Lee Lieber said the department approached the schools in town—including the public schools, Moorestown Friends, Our Lady of Good Counsel and Kingsway Learning Center—shortly after the Newtown, CT, tragedy to offer to have officers stop in to the schools during their regular patrols.
The visits serve multiple purposes, Lieber explained. For one thing, they're peace of mind for the parents, students and staff, as well as a potential deterrent for anyone who might want to cause harm.
But the primary motivation is preparedness, he said.
The department wants its officers to meet the school staff and familiarize themselves with the layout of the buildings—maybe walk with an administrator or a maintenance employee—so they become part of the fabric of the school system, and in case of an incident, they know their way around, Lieber explained.
"We don't have the manpower to put someone in every school," he said. "But we feel this is a good alternative."
The visits began last week. Ideally, the officers will stop by each school—with the exception of Moorestown High School and William Allen Middle School, which are served by the school resource officer—at least once or twice a week.
The visits will be short and completely random, and will be built into the officer's regular patrol schedule, Lieber said.
School Board President Don Mishler said the board of education welcomed the added police presence, saying, "It builds confidence with our staff and our children that the police are there. (And) it creates a more comfortable relationship between the police and the schools."
Another positive side effect is that it's instilled into the staff a renewed focus on school security, he said.
"Security is only as good as the people in our schools," said Mishler. "It's obvious to me, from conversations I've had with our staff, there is a heightened awareness in our schools—and that's a good thing."
Moorestown Friends School spokesman Mike Schlotterbeck said the school was also grateful for the increased police presence.
"We have welcomed the police department to come in and get to know our community a little better," he said, "which I really think can only be a good thing."
Mishler said the district recently received the results of a security audit it commissioned in December. Though he intentionally avoided going into detail, he mentioned a few of the recommendations included in the audit, including: new lighting, additional security cameras and re-examining how the school building handle visitors.