EASTPOINTE — City officials and business owners gathered at the Eastpointe Police Department May 14 to celebrate the introduction of Police And Community for Equality (PACE) into the Eastpointe-Roseville Chamber of Commerce and kick off the start of a joint project they are working on with East Detroit Public Schools.
Project Student Safety Zone will provide students safe routes to and from school and places to go if they feel they are in danger. Businesses participating in the new initiative will display a sticker in their window, letting students know they are welcome to come in if they are approached by a stranger or feel they might be in danger for any reason.
“This project is a good thing and we are looking forward to having officers and citizens along the routes the students take home, and we want to get the word out that they can go to these businesses if there is a problem,” said Deputy Chief Scott Bourgeois.
The district is on board with the initiative, and the sticker logo that participating businesses will display is going to be designed by a student. At press time, the district was narrowing down student submissions for the sticker, and the chamber was expected to receive the top five designs May 17.
After choosing one as a logo for the project, chamber personnel will hit the streets and market the project to businesses across town. Participating businesses are asked to provide a safe haven for students in danger and a phone to use, if they need to call someone for a ride or contact the police.
“This is a project I’m really excited about,” said Danielle Bare, executive director of the chamber. “As a mom of a school-aged child, this is near and dear to my heart. I am relentless, so these businesses will not be able to say no. I’m going to pound the door of every business and ask them to participate because I think it is important for the kids to know they have safe places to go if they feel like they are being followed, or if they feel like they are unsafe, or if they are being bullied.”
It’s an initiative PACE has been working on for a while, and it comes at a great time — earlier this year, a Kelly Middle School student reported an attempted abduction, and not long after that, another student from the school reported a male suspect had followed her on her way home from school.
The incidents were not mentioned at the kickoff for the new project, but PACE members did share their happiness that the project was finally coming to fruition.
“This has been in the making for a while and we are excited that it’s finally happening officially,” said Pastor James Friedman, the Police Department’s chaplain who helped retired Chief Mike Lauretti launch the program.
Lauretti is no longer active in PACE, but he was at the Police Department for the celebration of the new program. He offered a few words on how it all began.
“It started with a meeting in my office. … We actually talked about race relationships in southeastern Michigan and the Detroit metropolitan area, and it’s grown to what it is today because there is a message in what we are doing — we are all here together,” Lauretti said. “We are all part of God’s children. We wanted to bring that message forward, and we have, and have grown to where we are today.”
PACE has grown — it went from a few members to a few dozen members in just a short time — and now with its partnerships with the school district and chamber, it has the potential to do even more for the community.
“We are just starting — we really are,” Friedman said. “Other cities have been looking at what we have done here through PACE and they are beginning to duplicate what we have accomplished here. By gathering so many people from different fields — business, community, religious and faith-based organizations, police, and fire — it’s just a phenomenal thing we have been able to accomplish here.”
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