Committee hears of crosswalk improvements following crossing guard program cancellation

Police Chief Eric Van Hook presents his proposal for increaesd crosswalk safety to the Public Safety Committee Monday night. (O'Fallon Weekly Photo by Nick Miller)

Police Chief Eric Van Hook presents his proposal for increaesd crosswalk safety to the Public Safety
Committee Monday night. (O’Fallon Weekly Photo by Nick Miller)

O’FALLON – The Public Safety Committee received a report from Police Chief Eric Van Hook about his plans going forward without crossing guards in the 2016-17 school year.

Van Hook laid out a plan consisting of a variety of additional signage, repainted crosswalks, and other outreach plans designed to make areas where pedestrians cross streets safer.  Van Hook said that while the recently cancelled crossing guard program only watched over seven intersections, his new plan will address issues at a great many more.

The city’s Public Works department has already begun preliminary work to repaint the crosswalks with a ladder pattern. That paint work will be done prior to the start of the school year.

Van Hook’s plan to improve the city’s crosswalk safety will cost approximately $15,210, of which $10,000 will go towards a rapid flashing beacon to be stationed on Kyle Road near Fulton Junior High School. Van Hook said that spot was determined to be a good test to see if the rapid flashing beacons are effective or not. The Public Works department has the money available in its budget and will shoulder the financial costs associated with the plan.

Van Hook said this plan does all it can to draw attention to the crosswalks and that ultimately some personal responsibility will have to come into play.

“It’s important for parents to make sure their kids get to school. If I, for example, didn’t like my granddaughter walking to school, my first response wouldn’t be to call someone at the city to make sure she got to school. I just wouldn’t. It’s my job as a parent and its my responsibility,” Van Hook said.

Van Hook isn’t stopping with increased signage though. The police department will be present at crosswalks on the first day of school to discuss overall safety with students and parents.

“Officers will be present on the first day of school to talk to students around the crosswalk areas about overall safety. We have more reports of attempted child abductions than we do reports of children being hit by cars at bus stops. So we think its important to talk to kids about stranger awareness and other aspects of safety,” said Van Hook.

Additionally, the department has reached out to PTO groups in O’Fallon and offered to give presentations on a variety of subjects including bullying, cyber bullying, Internet safety, school safety, and first aid. Van Hook said the O’Fallon PD will also continue to have a proactive relationship with the city’s schools, making frequent visits to the facilities.

“I challenge anybody to find another police department that does more proactive work in their schools than we do. We’re very proud of that and we take it very serious,” Van Hook said.

In other business…

The Public Safety Committee approved intergovernmental agreements with School Districts 90, 104, and 203. The agreements allow emergency personnel to use the school facilities as staging areas and shelters in disaster situations. The city and the schools have had an informal agreement for a long while, however the PD needs the formal arrangement for its Emergency Operation Plans.