NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Getting to school safely is challenging enough in the city, but take crossing guards out of the situation and parents say it is a recipe for disaster.
As CBS 2’s Vanessa Murdock reported Wednesday, that is exactly what happened in Jackson Heights, Queens.
“I think it’s very dangerous,” said Jackson Heights resident Anu Mani. “I see people turning all the time – almost running into these kids.”
CBS 2’s camera rolled as child after child crossed the busy intersection of 37th Avenue and 81st Street, just steps away from the Renaissance Charter School. Most of the children were walking alone with no help from a crossing guard.
Jackson Heights resident Georgia Southworth said there should “absolutely” and “without question” be a crossing guard at the intersection. Aden Mani, 8, said the same.
“They help people cross the street and make sure that cars don’t run over them,” Aden said.
The crossing guards have helped Aden and his family cross the street before, but this year they are nowhere to be found.
“I think it’s an outrage,” said Chester Hicks of Jackson Heights. “We asked for a speed bump; they couldn’t give us that because it’s a bus route. Now we don’t have a school crossing guard.”
Peggy Heeney of the Renaissance Charter School said the school learned it would be without a crossing guard just four days before the school year started.
“This isn’t a safe corner; be very careful when you cross the street,” Heeney said. “There’s been a number of fatalities – not particularly right here, but just up one block up, and then up on Northern Boulevard.”
The junction of 37th Avenue and 81st Street is not the only intersection without a crossing guard. The list is long across Queens.
“We’re missing about 12 or 13 crossing guards in various schools,” said New York State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-Queens.)
Peralta said it is unacceptable, especially considering the statistics.
“Between the years of 2011 and 2013, the number of kids that have been struck and killed in New York City by cars has almost doubled, from seven to 13,” Peralta said.
CBS 2 stopped by the 115th Precinct police station to find out why there is no crossing guard near Renaissance Charter School.
“We’re short on school crossing guards due to retirements,” NYPD Deputy Inspector Michael Cody responded. “Of the 18 school crossing guards posted in the 115th Precinct, only 16 of them are covered due to retirements.”
Cody said the department is working hard to hire more. As to when that would happen, he said, “We’re hoping within the next few weeks.”
In the meantime, Cody said the 115 working now will pay special attention to 37th Avenue at 81st Street.
“Members of the school team and members on patrol will cover the crossing,” he said.
Crossing guards are civilians rather than sworn officers. The position is open to all city residents and there is always a need for more.
Those interested in working as a crossing guard should check with their local police precincts.
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