EASTPOINTE — If they feel unsafe, kids living in Eastpointe can now take refuge with local businesses following the Feb. 7 kickoff of Project Safe Zone at Clovers Collision.
According to Eastpointe-Roseville Chamber of Commerce President Danielle Bare, participating churches and businesses in the city will have “Project Safe Zone” stickers denoting that kids can stop in and have the people at the safe zone call the authorities for assistance, if need be.
The chamber and the Police and Community for Equality (PACE) group have been working on this project since the spring of 2013, when Bare had heard about a couple of attempted child abductions, she told C & G in November.
Bare said Clovers Collision on Stephens Road was the first business in the city to receive the sticker and become an official part of the program, but she added that, as of Feb. 14, around 20 businesses in the city have signed on. There was some initial reticence by local business owners who were worried about liability.
“Their concern was what should we do if a student feels unsafe, and they don’t have to do anything but call the local authorities. They don’t have to harbor a person,” Bare said. “They were fine with just calling the police, because that’s what they would do anyway.”
Diane Seger, co-owner of Clovers Collision with her husband, Mike, said it was an honor to be the business in the city that kicked off the program. With her auto shop across the street from an alternative education school, she said they see a lot of foot traffic from kids going by.
“I see kids all the time, and we’re open all day long, so it would almost be like a no-brainer to have them come in here if there’s something they need,” Seger said. “It worked out that Stephens is a highly trafficked and used road.”
During the kickoff event, she said she placed the sticker denoting the business as a safe zone on the front door. Bare said the sticker is designed by a student at Kelly Middle School and printed by J’s Silkscreen at no cost.
Bare said that once the weather warms up, she and the Rev. James Friedman from the Police and Community for Equality group plan on going door-to-door at local businesses and churches to tell people about the project to get more of them signed up, believing it an important part of keeping local kids safe.
“As a mom, it’s really near and dear to my heart because I have school-age children,” she said.
The East Detroit school district and the Eastpointe Police Department are both on board with the program. In November, Public Safety Director John McNeilance said he supported any program that helped businesses improve the safety of the community and got kids help when they need it, and Superintendent Joanne Lelekatch released a statement highlighting its value.
“The School Safety Zone Project is just another great example of the schools, police and community working together for the safety and welfare of our students,” Lelekatch said in the statement.
The Chamber of Commerce is also looking into setting up a similar program in Roseville this year.
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