Safe place program for kids coming to Ferry
By ROBERT A. DEFRANK
Times Leader Staff Writer
MARTINS FERRY — The police and Fraternal Order of Police Association are preparing to launch an outreach program in the Purple City that would have businesses offer safe places for children who are facing bullying or any threat while away from home.
Quentin Poole is the outreach director with Thin Blue Line FOPA Lodge 100, based in Martins Ferry but covering Martins Ferry and Bridgeport. He said the eventual goal is to cover all of Belmont County with safe places for children who feel they are in danger. Members are working in partnership with FOP Lodge 78. He said the organizations see this as effective community outreach.
“One of the concerns of the members was the bullying in the schools,” he said. “We hear a lot about it.”
Poole added that the program will do more than provide shelter for students — it will also raise awareness of the issues those children face.
“We’re trying to get aggressive with dealing with bullying,” he said. “It’s a step. It won’t solve all our problems completely, however it will raise the awareness. It will get people’s attention more,” he said.
“When people go up to that local business, they’re going to see that sign out front. … They’re going to be able to talk to their kids even more.”
Poole said members are in the process of meeting with officials and community organizations to set the groundwork for the program. He added that they have made overtures to the Martins Ferry City School District to work in conjunction with the FOP.
“We’re in the early stages of developing it,” he said.
“Our goal is to meet with all the superintendents of Belmont County as well as the chambers of commerce. That’s going to help us out with which businesses.”
Poole added that the FOP expects a significant response.
“I’m sure a lot of businesses will reach out to us and would like to participate,” he said, adding that a contact number will designated for the program. In the meantime, interested businesses should contact their local chamber of commerce.
Identification notices will be placed in the windows of participating businesses to alert young people the site is a safe place.
“There will be a checklist for each employee to know what to do and how to spot a child in distress that is looking for help,” Poole said.
He added that this program would also send a message that community cares and takes an interest in children.
“We’re not trying to step on anybody’s toes. We’re not trying to re-invent the wheel. We know there are programs that are in place, however we think the more awareness there is of this issue, they’ll be more effective.”
The program should be operating within the next two months.
“It’s coming along well,” Martins Ferry Police Chief John McFarland said, adding that he sees potential in the program.
“We’re asking them to participate in this particular outreach program where if there’s a child or an adult that’s being bullied, being harassed and on the street, looking to escape a situation, they can look at these particular businesses as a safe place. The business will call the police department, and we’ll have people respond there to try and resolve the problem,” McFarland said. “It’s mainly aimed at children who are being bullied and who are maybe looking for a place to go into to be safe.”
While McFarland said his officers have not seen many such instances in the city of children in need of a safe place, the addition will be valuable.
“Giving these kids an option and letting them know that there’s people out there to help them — the business people will do what they can to protect them and notify the police as soon as possible,” he said.
“If they have a place to go, there’s options,” Martins Ferry schools Superintendent Jim Fogle said, adding that the schools will help make students aware of the program when it begins. “If they see that sign in the front window of that business, that’ll alert to them that this is a place they can go and seek help.”