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49th Precinct ‘safe havens’ coming to life

Bronx Times

The 49th Precinct Community Council’s plan to keep local children safe is slowly coming into fruition.

After 19-year-old Willmer Hernandez was murdered in August while attempting to stop a group of men from stealing his brother’s cell phone, Joe Thompson, president of the council, began to look into ways to better protect children of the community.

Since the murder, Thompson has looked into the possibility of developing “safe havens” within the Community Board 11 area. The concept would have small local businesses allow any youth of the community to stay in their store should they feel threatened and have business owners call the 49th Precinct if necessary.

The idea, Thompson said, is one that has been used before in the past within the boroughs and is still being used in some communities. As of Tuesday, November 9, Thompson has received the approval of 49th Precinct Deputy Inspector Kevin Nicholson, the Morris Park Community Association, the Van Nest Neighborhood Alliance, and the Allerton Business and Community Association to go forward with the plan.

“If a child is scared or worried that they are in trouble, he or she can simply go right into a store and contact either their parents or the police,” Thompson said. “Any store that would like to participate as a ‘safe haven’ will display a decal in their storefront to let passerby know that they are part of the program.”

Thompson has already received permission from the two merchants that he has spoken to on Allerton Avenue. In total, his goal is to have anywhere between 40 and 50 merchants within the board to volunteer their businesses as “safe havens.”

Currently, Thompson is waiting to see if Bronx Borough Command will supply the needed decals for the storefronts. However, if that is not the case, Pip Printing on 3018 E. Tremont Avenue has offered to make the decals, which will be funded through the 49th Precinct Community Council.

Once decals are purchased and stores provide their approval, Thompson says the next goal is to spread the word of at all local schools so that principals will be able to send out letters to students and parents notifying them of particular locations that have offered to serve as “safe havens.”

Thompson said he and the council hope to begin the process as early as December and believes that the more stores participate, the safer the community will be for children.

“We all know how difficult it can be to keep all of our children safe, especially with the limited amount of police officers that we have,” Thompson said. “We as a community need to do everything that we can to help our local law enforcement help our children. This is a step in the right direction.”

Reach Vito Signorile via e-mail at vsignorile@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3383.

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