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updated: 10/15/2012 7:29 AM

Danville man organizes bus watch

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  • David Crawley with a sign for the Bus Watch predator program he is starting in Danville.

      David Crawley with a sign for the Bus Watch predator program he is starting in Danville.
    Associated Press

 
Associated Press

DANVILLE -- David Crawley remembers his childhood days when neighbors would look after one another's children to make sure the students made it home safely after school.

When he moved into the Holiday Hills neighborhood about a year ago, Crawley said he made a point to go around and meet all his neighbors. He encourages others around the city to do the same.

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"If you want your neighborhood to be safe, you need to get involved," said Crawley, who previously worked at the Danville Correctional Center.

"I'm a people person," he said. "I'm at home a lot and when I moved into Holiday Hills a year ago, I got to know the kids and know where they all live and who their parents are.

"After you get to know them, you want to make sure they're safe and make it home okay, so I started keeping an eye out for them," he said.

Crawley said it dawned on him one day that "if I can do this, I bet other people can do this, too."

With the support of the City of Danville, Crawley developed the Bus Watch program, which is similar to a neighborhood watch program but encourages people to keep an eye out for neighborhood children when they are waiting for the school bus or walking to and from school.

If a Bus Watch volunteer sees a suspicious person or vehicle near a school bus stop or in the neighborhood when children are walking to and from school, the program encourages the volunteer to call 911 and report the suspicious activity to the police.

"I don't want people being vigilante and approaching a suspicious car. That's not safe," Crawley said. "Just look out the window and call 911 if you see something suspicious.

"That one phone call where we keep one child safe will make it all worthwhile," he said.

Unlike the Safe House program of the 1970s and the McGruff Safe House program in recent years, in which children who felt threatened while walking to and from school could seek safety at a home that displayed a window decal, Crawley said his Bus Watch program discourages people from allowing children into their home.

"In today's society, you can't have a child coming into your home. You don't know what a child might say," he said.

Rather, the Bus Watch program asks that volunteers who are at home before and/or after school to look out their window or stand on their front porch when they hear the school bus or when they know children will be walking to make sure they are safe.

Danville School District 118 Superintendent Mark Denman said it is always safer to have adults supervising children, whether it's while they are walking to school or waiting at a school bus stop.

"I am aware there are some neighborhoods where they keep an eye on the kids," he said.

Denman added he knows of three parents who monitor the school bus stop at the corner of Jackson and Davis streets every morning.

Crawley said he purposely fashioned the Bus Watch program so it is similar to neighborhood watch programs. Participants do not officially sign up to be in the program but instead merely volunteer.

"We decided not to have sign-ups because of liability issues," Crawley said. "What if you're not home one day and something happens to a child?"

The program has received the support of the City of Danville and the 12 neighborhood associations in the city.

Mayor Scott Eisenhauer said the Bus Watch program "is a perfect extension of the neighborhood associations, in which neighbors look after neighbors, care about each other and watch the area."

Eisenhauer said the city's neighborhood associations originally were formed to help the city identify code enforcement issues, but now those associations have expanded to include the wellness and caring of neighbors.

"Mr. Crawley has been very energetic about the program, and the neighborhood associations he spoke to were excited about it," Eisenhauer said. "Some neighborhood associations already do something like the Bus Watch program, but it isn't as formal or as organized.

"I think it's a fantastic program, and I like that it's proactive," he added. "Thankfully we haven't had a problem in Danville, but it's in the headlines in the news that it's happening in other communities, and rather than waiting for something to happen and figuring out what to do, we're being proactive."

The city has funded the printing of 4-inch bright yellow Bus Watch decals that can be displayed on a window or door of a participating home. Those window decals are available for free at City Hall and through local neighborhood associations. Participants also can purchase a plastic Bus Watch sign, if they prefer, for $4.75 at Danville Paper and Supply, 118 E. North St.

Crawley hopes just the presence of the Bus Watch decals in a neighborhood deters would-be predators.

"If someone's driving along and thinking about doing something, but they see a Bus Watch decal in a window, they might think twice about doing it," he said. "If there's one person looking out their window, that would be a deterrent.

"This isn't just a Danville issue," Crawley said. "We hope it (the program) spreads. It would be nice if all the communities would come together and safeguard their children.

"I don't have any kids, but if I did, I would want those extra sets of eyes watching them," he said.

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