Gov. Murphy Announces $5.7 Million To Increase School Safety Across State

By: Savannah Scarborough, Follow South Jersey Intern

SOUTH JERSEY – After five long months of heartbreaking tragedies in US schools in 2023 alone, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has announced a $5.79 million investment in a statewide initiative to improve school security, specifically with critical incident mapping efforts. 

Political leaders in the state encourage this type of funding due to the prevalent violence that has taken place in our schools, with 46 school shootings in 2022 and more just this year. The mortality rate related to firearms has increased since 2015 and is now the leading cause of death for children and teens in America. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Wonder database, approximately 19% of childhood heaths (age 1-18) in 2021 were accounted for by firearms. 

“In the face of our country’s ongoing epidemic of gun violence, both in and out of schools, this information is unfortunately yet undeniably necessary to help ensure the safety of our students and educators,” said Governor Murphy.

Through this funding, from remaining federal Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Emergency Assistance for Non-Public Schools funds and American Rescue Plans EANS funds, local officials hope to improve the response rate in the event of a crisis and to keep children and staff safe. 

“Our commitment to ensuring that our children and school personnel are safe will always be a top priority in our mission to protect and serve. The critical incident mapping initiative will undoubtedly assist law enforcement during emergent times by providing first responders with an additional tool to work more quickly and more efficiently,” said Colonel Patrick J. Callahan, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. 

The funding will go towards creating accurate and uniform maps within schools to help law enforcement swiftly and effectively respond to emergencies in unfamiliar scenarios and ensure consistent mapping across the state. A significant component of this funding will support the New Jersey Police State Police efforts to provide access to critical incident mapping information to first responders in all 21 New Jersey counties. 

“The allocation of additional funding toward the statewide school mapping security initiative will aid in building preparedness throughout our region by utilizing modern technology to enhance coordination and security across New Jersey’s schools,” said the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness Director (NJOHSP) Laurie Doran.

Incident mapping efforts began in August 2022 when Governor Murphy announced $6.5 million for the same initiative and later signed legislation requiring all public and non-public schools to submit their mapping data to local law enforcement agencies. During that time, New Jersey State Police conducted a contract with a vendor who works to collect the updated school maps and upload the electronic format of that information to an online database.

Since then, first responders have only had access to the mapping data of a few of the state’s thousands of public and private schools. Now, all of the schematics for every New Jersey school building are collected, and local law enforcement plans to conduct annual walkthroughs of each building to ensure accurate and up-to-date mapping data.

Many local law officials believe this cutting-edge technology will change how law enforcement responds to events like school shootings and other school-related emergencies. Senator Joe Lagna stated, “No doubt this technology can help save time in an emergency response and ultimately help save lives.” 

To learn more about Governor Murphy’s previous investment, click here.  

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