Points worth noting: Code Blue, concert for animals

Posted Friday, Mar. 08, 2013  comments  Print Reprints



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School security plan

It was a spike in the overall crime rate, increased gang activity and a record number of murders in the late 1980s that prompted Fort Worth to create a citizens-involved crime-fighting program that would become a model for the country.

Code Blue: Citizens on Patrol, a successful neighborhood watch program for the past 21 years, is about to take on responsibility for helping protect Fort Worth schools.

Moved by December's tragic Sandy Hook Elementary mass killings in Newtown, Conn., Police Chief Jeff Halstead began looking for a plan to help safeguard schoolchildren in Fort Worth without adding officers to every campus, arming teachers or increasing city and school budgets.

The city, police department and Fort Worth school district, in a joint news conference Friday, announced a proposal to use Code Blue volunteers as an extra set of eyes and ears on the district's 84 elementary school campuses.

Halstead told the Star-Telegram Editorial Board Friday that the partners will establish a task force including management and staff of the schools that will meet during the next few months to decide several issues: additional training needs; whether current Code Blue uniforms are sufficient; what identification will look like and policies/procedures that will apply while volunteers are on school grounds.

The program should be up and running by the start of classes next school year, officials said.

Each Fort Worth middle and high school already has police resource officers on site. Volunteers in the elementary schools will be on the lookout for suspicious activity on and around campus and will report it by radio to a base that can dispatch an officer, the chief said.

Code Blue is funded through the Crime Control and Prevention District, which has enough money to provide uniforms, radios and training for an additional 50 to 100 volunteers, Halstead said.

This is an aggressive but sensible way to address school security using a proven neighborhood model. Halstead said he's eager to make something similar available to other school districts within the city.

Songs for sick animals

A homeless black Labrador retriever had been beaten and was sick with pneumonia and Bordetella when he arrived at the Fort Worth Animal Shelter in 2011.

The dog, named Henry by city workers, was successfully treated and has become a symbol for abandoned animals needing medical attention. He's also the namesake for Project Henry, an effort to build a 3,300-square-foot medical isolation ward at the Chuck Silcox Animal Care and Control Center. The facility could help save an additional 1,500 animals annually, officials say.

Architectural services have been donated, but other money for the $1 million project -- including $650,000 for construction -- will have to be raised to complete it, said Scott Hanlan, assistant code compliance director for the city.

Hanlan said about $300,000 in private funding has already been committed, and he expects construction could start after the total cost is secured, while fundraising for equipment and operations continues.

To help out, a group of volunteers organized a "Project Henry Benefit" fundraiser for today, from 2 to 10 p.m. Featuring live music by local bands, the event will be at Oscar's Pub, 6323 Camp Bowie Blvd., #125.

Cover charge is $10 -- or $5 with a student ID or with a donated bag of pet food.

All proceeds from ticket and merchandise sales will be donated for construction of the medical treatment ward.

Animal control officials, committed to increasing live outcomes at the shelter, say the isolation medical unit is needed to keep sick animals from infecting others. The new ward will house up to 58 animals with illnesses that can be successfully treated.

Call 817-392-PAWS (7297) for more information, or donate by mail to: City of Fort Worth Animal Medical Treatment Ward, 818 Missouri Ave., Fort Worth, TX 76104.

Details about the event are available at bit.ly/YRyUqo.

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