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Members of Missouri State Highway Patrol Troop C recently started walking the halls of area schools at random for an added level of security.

Patrol spokesperson Cpl. Juston Wheetley said the program has been ongoing for a couple years elsewhere in the state, and that Troop C is just ramping up participation.

“At the end of (the last) school year I contacted all of the superintendents of the area school districts and explained the program to them,” Wheetley said. “I sent them the information and they all agreed to partner with the program.”

Wheetley said they are doing walk-through programs where troopers will randomly go to a school and walk-through interacting with the faculty and the students.

He stressed it serves as a two-fold purpose.

“One is to just interact with the kids to put a face with the uniform,” Wheetley said. “As well as being someone who works in the community, so they can build trust and relationships.

"The other one is to provide an extra layer of security.”

Wheetley said they have been randomly going to the schools. He explained if they are working a crash near a school, when they finish up if there's nothing else going on they will pop in at that school for 10 or 15 minutes.

“They will visit and then leave. We do this so it is not predictable when we will show up,” Wheetley said. “So that extra layer of security is so others won’t know when we will be there or when we won’t, and we hope it may deter anything that may be planned.”

Wheetley said he believes it has been going well since they began the program. He said they started stopping in at schools at the end of the school year last year.

“It has been really well received by everyone,” Wheetley said. “The students get to talk to the officers in a friendly environment and we can interact with them. The faculty likes it, and parents we have talked to about it say they feel safer knowing that we stop by the schools.”

Wheetley stressed the goal is not to replace the school resource officers at any of the schools, but to assist them and add an extra layer of security.

“If any private schools would like to participate in the program they can contact a member of the Missouri State Highway Patrol and we would be glad to add them to our list as well,” Wheetley said.

Central Superintendent Desi Mayberry said he thinks it is very positive thing they are wanting to do and it gives the schools an extra police presence in their buildings.

“It can also help the relationship with our students and our state patrol, so I am very pleased they are taking the initiative to do this,” Mayberry said. “They started at the end of last year and I am pleased with all of it.”

North County Superintendent Dr. Yancy Poorman said they signed up to allow troopers to visit any school building in the district at any time.

“It will smooth some bridges out for us and it will also be good for the kids to see (the troopers) in a different setting,” Poorman said. “They can actually come in and take part and eat lunch with them if they want. Whatever they want to do, we told them it was open campus and all they have to do is check in at the office to tell us they are there.”

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Renee Bronaugh is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3617 or rbronaugh@dailyjournalonline.com

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