- Associated Press - Monday, September 1, 2014

LANCASTER, Pa. (AP) - Retired Marine Cpl. Lewis Alston first noticed students crossing South Duke Street near Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School without a crossing guard last school year.

“I was coming down Duke Street and I saw how some of the children were trying to cross and the traffic didn’t stop for them and I said, ‘Holy cow, somebody should be here to help them get across’ because I didn’t see a crossing guard,” he said Wednesday.

Alston decided to become that somebody.

The 63-year-old retired truck driver who lives in Lititz has been helping kids cross the street each morning since school started Monday. He’s been wearing a uniform because he’s part of the Red Rose Veterans Honor Guard (Monday, he took part in a service for a deceased veteran.)

“I felt there was a strong statement to our children if there was a veteran in uniform,” he said.

Students have been receptive, he said.

“It was awesome. The little ones, when they came up, I said good morning and they said good morning. I said, ‘I’m, here to help you get across the street safely,’” he said. “The neatest thing was, when we got across, they said, ‘Thank you very much, sir.’ It really made a strong impact for them.”

Motorists have waved to him. One driver even parked, got out of her car, and came up to Alston to show him a picture of her son, who’s a Marine at Camp Pendleton, he said.

Alston said he was told by a city councilwoman’s office that the area didn’t need a guard because there was a traffic light at South Duke and North streets.

But other streets near the school don’t have lights, he said. And, he said, there are other schools in the city with traffic lights that also have crossing guards.

Cheryl Holland-Jones, executive director of Crispus Attucks Community Center, which is near the school, said South Duke is “an extremely busy street and it would make sense to me that a crossing guard would only help to ensure the safety of the children.”

In the past, she said staff have gone to the school to help children cross South Duke to get to the center for after school programs.

A call to the School District of Lancaster about crossing guards was referred to the police department. Lt. Todd Umstead said the city has 23 crossing guards.

“We have limited resources, so we look at where the biggest need is based on safety,” he said. That’s done in conjunction with the school district, based on traffic studies it conducts, which look at traffic, accident history and pedestrian volume.

Crossing guards are part-time civilian employees with the department that go through training and criminal background checks.

Umstead said he believed South Duke and North did have a crossing guard, but that the position was eliminated after speed reduction steps including angled parking and curb extensions were installed about several years ago.

As for Alston or anyone else who wants to help people cross the street, Umstead said that’s fine, so long as they’re careful, obey traffic laws and realize that they could potentially face liability if something were to happen.

Generally, people cannot stop or direct traffic, Umstead said.

And, Umstead said, the city regularly has positions open for school crossing guards, including now.

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Online:

https://bit.ly/1qweQv2

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Information from: Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era , https://lancasteronline.com

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