Bradenton schools get security sweep

Police want to prevent any potential violence

BRADENTON, Fla. - Even though it's 1,000 miles away, the effects of the Sandy Hook massacre in Newtown, Connecticut are still being felt in communities concerned about school safety. 

In Bradenton, police have begun a program to make sure schools aren't overlooking any safety measures.

Officers are going from school to school, classroom to classroom, looking for potential security breaches.  

"We're starting at the perimeter of the school and then working our way in," said Capt. Warren Merriman of Bradenton Police.  Officers are checking outdoor fencing, gates, doors, and windows, and then moving to the rooms indoors.

The inspections are supposed to be unannounced, so they can be as effective as possible at finding problem areas.

"We want to take the proactive approach and make sure that our schools are secure," Merriman said.

For parents like Marie Cilencieux, whose six-year old daughter attends an elementary school in Bradenton, she's been worried ever since the Newtown murders.

"It's very important to me after what happened," Cilencieux said.  "I'm a little bit scared."

Cilencieux said she prefers seeing officers outside her school at all times, but also appreciates the inspections.

"I think that will have a kind of peace of mind for parents," she said.

Hivon Bettancourt walks her younger brother home from elementary school every weekday, and agrees with the police approach.

"I think it's really good, because I know if something were to happen, my mom and I would be devastated," Bettancourt said.  "The extra protection is really good."

Police are keeping the results of their inspections secret until the program is complete.  Then they'll make recommendations to the Manatee County School Board about what actions should be taken, if any.

So far, no red flags have stood out, Merriman said.  The aftermath of the Sandy Hook incident at least has had some positive impact.

"It's made us cognizant that we have to keep our children our number one priority," Merriman said.

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