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Police, crossing guards urge drivers to be 'patient and cautious' in school zones

Port St. Lucie police says they issued 10,000 citations last year
Posted at 5:34 PM, Aug 05, 2022

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — In less than a week school will be back in session and the Port St. Lucie Police Department is training over 30 crossing guards to help keep kids safe for the new school year.

A group of 32 crossing guards completed their annual traffic certification training outside of Floresta Elementary on Friday. Most are returning crossing guards and six of them are new.

"Like everybody else, we're struggling with the shortage in the workforce," said Port St. Lucie Commander Leo Niemczyk. "We recently raised the hourly wage for crossing guards to $15.50 an hour, that's made us much more competitive this year."

Stop sign paddles, whistle usage, crosswalk safety, and hand/verbal signals were some of the topics covered during the training, according to the department.

"The city provides them all of the equipment that's necessery for getting the job done," said Port St. Lucie Traffic Officer Keith Appelbaum. "That does include the stop signs, gloves, the shirts, lanyards, whistles, everything should be included."

The Port St. Lucie police department’s school crossing guard unit is responsible for ensuring the safety of children at street crossings near 19 schools throughout the city.

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Herb Coyle has been a crossing guard for 30 years.

Herb Coyle has been a crossing guard for 29 years.

"I've had people I've crossed in elementary school, now with kids of their own,” he remarked.

Coyle says over the years he's seen a growth in people and cars, as well as drivers being impatient.

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Port St. Lucie Commander Leo Niemczyk is urging drivers to say off their phones, especially around school zones.

"Cars do not slow down, they do not stop, they call you names,” said crossing guard Teresa Gasparre, “and a lot of it is parents that have dropped off kids and don't want to wait for other kids to be crossed."

In the last four years, the department says they've only had one crossing guard receive minor injuries after being hit by a car.

"We frequently have motorists that don't want to cooperate with our crossing guards, and when that does happen, we don't have a confrontation on scene," said Niemczyk. "We simply get the tag, and one of my traffic officers will pay them a visit at home in the evening, and we'll have a conversation about that."

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Crossing Guard Teresa Gasparre speaks with WPTV about drivers speeding through school zones.

Port St. Lucie Police says they issued 10,000 citations in or around school zones last year with tickets running as high as $456.

"First week of school is always a bit chaotic, the people who are commuting to work don't anticipate the increased traffic volume, they become a little anxious," Niemczyk said.

Police say they have a full staff of crossing guards and plan to ramp up patrol to catch people speeding through school zones at the start of new school year.

"Be patient, don't get frustrated, please stay off your phones, most especially around schools," said Niemczyk.