Crossing guards scarce in 7th Police District

Officials from the city and police acknowledge the issue while parents and concerned community members volunteer to help make the streets safer.

Keeping students safe: Residents can volunteer for the city’s Town Watch Integrated Services program, where they will be positioned at intersections near schools such as Farrell Elementary (pictured) to help kids get to school safely. MELISSA MITMAN / TIMES PHOTO

While city and 7th Police District officials are working to respond to a shortage of crossing guards in the district, parents and concerned community members are stepping up to help out with the problem.

The 7th Police District commander, Capt. Robert Ritchie, acknowledged the shortage of crossing guards, saying residents submit frequent complaints. To help curb the problem in the meantime, residents can volunteer for the city’s Town Watch Integrated Services program, where they will be positioned at intersections near schools to help kids get to school safely.

“We recruit adults and parents to establish a safe corridor to and from school and give the kids a sense of safety,” said Anthony Murphy, executive director of TWIS.

Volunteers are trained and given bright reflective vests and sometimes walkie-talkies, depending on the length of the route. Hours are flexible, and Murphy said could take as little as 30 to 45 minutes a day.

The program extends all across the city. In the 7th Police District, the program covers routes close to George Washington High School and Farrell Elementary School, Murphy said.

To get involved or learn more, contact Murphy at 215-686-1459.

Volunteers are just that – volunteers, and are not employed by the city. Laurence Nodiff, staff inspector for the PPD, said the city acknowledges the shortage of crossing guards, and is working to hire new guards.

“There are vacancies, we’re aware of the vacancies, and central personnel will be announcing a new crossing guard test soon,” Nodiff said. He said in the next few months there will be a new test for hiring school crossing guards that will allow applicants to indicate which districts they would like to be assigned to.

Nodiff encouraged applicants to watch out for the announcement in the next few months. Job descriptions will be posted on Phila.gov

Ritchie acknowledged the shortage is an issue in the district, though hiring new crossing guards is out of his hands.

“The 7th District does have some vacancies for school crossing guards at this time, however, we cover as many of these vacancies as we can with police officers, so long as they are not needed on an emergency assignment somewhere,” Ritchie said over email.

“Soon, I will be receiving newly hired school crossing guards and as soon as I do, I will begin assigning them at the intersections that they are needed,” he said.

Ritchie said the intersection and crosswalk at Byberry and Proctor roads has been a source of confusion for motorists due to the yellow flashing light. On Feb. 13, the bulbs were changed to flash red so motorists understand they must come to a complete stop if they see pedestrians crossing.

“Motorists are required to stop if the red lights are flashing and they observe a pedestrian is using or is about to use the crosswalk [at Byberry and Proctor roads],” he said. ••