“Safe Haven” program begins

Standing with the posters that will soon appear in store windows in and around Morris Park, Pelham Parkway, Van Nest and Allerton are (l-r) Senator Jeff Klein, 49th Precinct Community Council president Joseph Thompson, and Assemblywoman Naomi Rivera.
Photo courtesy of Naomi Rivera’s office

The 49th Precinct Community Council and Morris Park’s local merchants are launching a program that promises a safe haven for children who are being bullied or are in fear.

The Council, along with its partners, launched the Safe Haven for Kids program at the Morris Park Community Association headquarters on the evening of Thursday, January 12.

The 49th Precinct Community Council, local merchants, the Morris Park Community Association, Van Nest Neighborhood Alliance, Pelham Parkway Neighborhood Association, and the Allerton-Pelham Parkway Patrol are hoping to help prevent youth-on-youth crime, said 49th Precinct Community Council president Joseph Thompson.

The council has teamed up with Senator Jeff Klein and Assemblywoman Naomi Rivera in designing their own logo for the program, with posters that will be placed in store windows alerting young people that the store is a “safe haven” where children can go if they feel harassed, threatened, or lost, Thompson stated. The owner of the store can call the police, have the child call their parents, or just have the kids wait inside until they feel safe, Thompson said.

“This says this is a friendly store where you can go if you are lost, scared, or someone is harassing you,” Thompson stated.

The store owners are only allowed to take the names, addresses, and phone numbers of the children who come in for help, Thompson said. The merchants are screened by the police department prior to being accepted in the program, Thompson said.

“The store owners are the ones who provide sanctuary,” Thompson stated.

The program plans to partner with neighborhood schools and principals, who can hopefully get the word out to parents about the Safe Haven Program, Thompson said. Taking part in the launch were Senator Jeff Klein and Assemblywoman Naomi Rivera.

“I was pleased to be a part of the ‘Safe Haven for Kids’ announcement,” Klein said. “I know the 49th Precinct Community Council has put in a great amount of work to make this program possible and my office has signed up to be one such site. In light of some recent and horrifying acts against children, its important that every citizen realize their responsibility to protect our youth.”

Assemblywoman Rivera congratulated the founders of the program.

Rivera said, “Our entire community has the responsibility to help ensure the safety of our kids. Bullying and youth-on-youth crime have become all too common in our schools and neighborhoods.”

The straw that broke the camel’s back in terms of founding Safe Haven for Kids was the robbery in Van Nest youth Eric Laboy, a member of the precinct’s youth explorer program who was accosted September 2011, Thompson said.

“I do believe that a positive always comes out of a negative,” Laboy stated. “It has turned into a positive with the start of the Safe Haven Movement.”

Patrick Rocchio can be reach via e-mail at procchio@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3393

More from Around NYC