CPS Safe Passage incident reports show concerns, successes in fight to protect students

October 24, 2013 (CHICAGO)

Since classes started two months ago the I-Team has monitored student violence-- especially what is happening along the new Safe Passage routes. The I-Team filed a Freedom of Information request for Safe Passage incident reports and has obtained the first results for the initial three weeks of school.

As 400,000 children make their way to and from Chicago Public Schools every day, they are surrounded by frightening statistics. So far this year citywide-- 350 murders -- and more than 1,700 shootings. It is a monumental task to keep safe passageways safe.

In these documents obtained by the I-Team, the daily struggle to protect students -- nearly 100 incidents along CPS Safe Passage routes -- just during the first three weeks of school.

Serious incidents from gang run-ins-- where students were chased back to school after a fight broke out -- to emergency reports of shots fired on this block on the South Side.

On September 11th at 7:50 a.m., the Safe Passage monitor reports, "less than thirty seconds after the crowd passed my work area, shots were fired." Monitors called the police and ran to the scene "to make sure everyone was safe and alive." Luckily, no students were hurt. Officials never found the shooter.

"This shooting out here needs to stop, we've got young people out here trying to learn, and these gang bangers, they don't want young people to succeed," said Cortia Boyd, CPS parent.

District officials blotted out specific details from most of the reports, but throughout the records are drug deals and fights-- even a gun drawn on students during dismissal at Fenger High School.

However, so far this entire school year -- though there have been reports of "shots fired" near Safe Passage routes -- district officials say no one has actually been shot or seriously injured on a Safe Passage route during protected hours.

ABC7's Chuck Goudie says: "You must sit at work all day with your fingers crossed."

"No, we don't take anything for granted, like Chicago Police, every day we take our children's safety seriously. It's work, and it's not just crossing fingers," said Jadine Chou, CPS' chief safety and security officer.

Monitors are even on the lookout for minor incidents to prevent problems before violence. If there is a threat, officials can put a school on "high alert."

"High alert means that we will actually have additional supports from the community, from Chicago Police and from our safe passage workers so people will be attuned to keeping an extra eye out for any potential conflict might be in the area," said Chou.

But so far this year, CPS says the plan is working-- and they're proud of that.

"It takes a lot of work, our Safe Passage workers are very in tuned with preventing issues before they happen," said Chou.

The school security team relies on a network of cameras, tips from parents, and even social media to keep tabs on students, using screenshots of posts from students to launch investigations. CPS says Safe Passage is here to stay for the foreseeable future, and hopes it will change the culture to increase student safety citywide.

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