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Culpeper County sheriff’s Deputy Dana Dodson, a school resource officer, recites the Pledge of Allegiance with students Wednesday morning at Sycamore Park Elementary School in the town of Culpeper.

The Culpeper Police Department is launching a School Watch program to strengthen inter-agency cooperation in safeguarding the town’s public and private schools.

The effort expands the department’s Community Policing Program promoting collaboration and communication between the department, the county Sheriff’s Office and Culpeper County Public Schools, Police Chief Chris Jenkins announced this week.

The School Watch assigns a Culpeper police officer as a liaison with each of the six schools in town and the Head Start program. At the county’s four public schools within the town, the liaison officers will work directly with the Culpeper County school resource officers assigned to each school.

“This program puts together teachers, administrators, sheriff’s deputies, school resource officers, and police officers to establish a safe environment for our kids,” Chief Jenkins said in an interview Wednesday. “It’s old-fashioned community police work—officers getting out and establishing positive relations with people before there is an event or a crisis. … You can’t put a price tag on trust.”

The Sheriff’s Office and its school resource officers continue to have primary jurisdiction over any incident on public school campuses. As before, the three local law-enforcement agencies encourage residents, parents, faculty and students to report incidents at public schools to the Sheriff’s Office.

“The Culpeper Sheriff’s Office is pleased to join the Culpeper Police Department in implementing their School Watch program,” Sheriff Scott Jenkins said. “The safety of our schools is of the utmost importance, and this program will provide additional officers and resources in our efforts. Our school resource deputies look forward to developing strong working relationships with the police officers in the School Watch program.”

The School Watch aims to facilitate direct communications between Sheriff’s Office school resource officers, town police officers, and school administrators and faculty, according to a joint statement from the three partners. Its other objectives are to have more law-enforcement officers in the schools at any given time, and to provide more resources to facilitate school events and respond to incidents.

“We’ve had a pretty robust Neighborhood Watch program for a number of years, and then expanded that into a Business Watch,” Chief Jenkins said. “This is an outgrowth of those efforts. We’ve wanted to do it for some time, but didn’t have the staff until recently. We’re excited to partner with the Sheriff’s Office and Superintendent Brads on this initiative. Sheriff Jenkins and Dr. Brads have been very supportive.”

The watch program is being instituted at the four public schools in town–Yowell, Farmington and Sycamore Park elementaries and Floyd T. Binns Middle School–and two private schools, Culpeper Christian School and Epiphany Catholic School, plus the Head Start program.

“As a community, we are very fortunate to have the interest, dedication and support of local law enforcement as we all strive to protect students and staff so they can enjoy a safe teaching and learning environment,” Culpeper County Public Schools Superintendent Tony Brads said. “This collaboration between the Culpeper Police Department, the Culpeper County Sheriff’s Office and the school division is emblematic of that common goal. We appreciate and commend this partnership.”

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