Gunfire often is heard near Los Angeles’s Crenshaw High School. Recently, reports the Los Angeles Times, the neighborhood was closed off by police to prevent brawls outside a football game. Dozens of local residents have volunteered for Safe Passage, which stations uniformed residents outside schools to ward off gang members, report truants, and ensure the safety of schoolchildren.
Last Saturday, 20 activists walked the streets near the school, knocking on doors and asking residents to volunteer between two and 10 hours a week. The goal is to canvass a dozen school neighborhoods and sign up 300 new volunteers by the end of May for the year-round schools.
“It gives a kid a sense of security,” said Khalid Shah, executive director of Stop the Violence, Increase the Peace Foundation. “You can’t go to school and learn if you’re worrying about what’s going to happen after school…. Maybe a bully is going to beat you up.” Shah said that, in Safe Passage’s 10 years, crime around some schools dropped up to 70 percent.
About 80 residents split time during peak hours – 7 to 9 a.m. and 2 to 5 p.m. on school days. They identify suspicious cars and individuals and radio the information to school officials or the police. “This teaches the community to police themselves,” said Kenneth Bell, 41, a gang interventionist who joined with Shah in July after they campaigned for calm after a jury deadlocked in the first trial of ex-Inglewood police officer Jeremy Morse in the videotaped beating of a youth.