ALDEN, N.Y. -- As students across Western New York go back to class this week, many will notice stepped up security, including more School Resource Officers in local schools than ever before.
The Erie County Sheriff's Office has doubled the number of deputies placed in schools, thanks to grants and funding from the districts.
Now, there's a dedicated school resource officer, or SRO, for each of the following districts: Alden, Holland, Springville-Griffith and North Collins. Previously, the districts had to share SROs.
2 On Your Side sat down with three of those deputies: Ashley Piel, assigned to Alden; Mike Okal assigned to Holland; and Jackie Feggans assigned to Springville-Griffith. The fourth deputy in the SRO program is Frank Simmeth who patrols North Collins.
"Do you think (about) Parkland, Sandy Hook, Columbine?" 2 On Your Side's Michael Wooten asked the deputies in a group interview.
"Yes. Every day," responded Deputy Ashley Piel. "You have to. School safety is numero uno."
Chief Scott Joslyn said having armed and specially-trained officers in schools has been a priority for law enforcement across the country.
"Kids go to school with the fear of being shot or having an active shooter try to enter their school," Chief Joslyn said. "They should feel safe."
Besides the expansion with the Erie County Sheriff's Office, other police agencies are starting school resource officer programs in Depew, Orchard Park, Eden and Bemus Point.
Other districts continue longstanding partnerships with police.
It's likely the Lancaster Central School District was first to have armed police protection, which started back in 2000. Now, there are officers at the high school and middle school. This coming January, the district will add a third SRO to split time between the elementary schools.
Sweet Home's SRO program also dates back a decade, but it has some recent high-tech upgrades.
"We've tied in via security cameras to the Town of Amherst Police Department so they can easily access things if there's ever an incident here," said Donald Feldmann, Communications Director for the district.
When Iroquois wanted an SRO, the Town of Elma created a one-man police department. Officer Joseph Deplato, a retired trooper, has been on the job ever since.
The largest district in Western New York, Buffalo Public Schools, is covered by a 10-person SRO unit from Buffalo Police. The 9 officers and 1 lieutenant split their time among all the schools.
On Grand Island, two part-time officers share the SRO responsibilities.
The Genesee County Sheriff's Office started putting deputies in schools back in 2014. Now, there are in 3 districts: Pembroke, Pavilion and Alexander.
In Niagara County, Newfane, Starpoint and BOCES all pay to have full-time deputies. Other districts in the county, including Niagara Falls, have local police in some of their schools.
Finally, perhaps the most aggressive SRO program in the region is in Cattaraugus County. The Sheriff's Office has 9 full-time deputies in schools, plus one part-time deputy.
Back in Erie County, Chief Joslyn said it's important to find the right people for the important job as a school resource officer.
The four that have been chosen each have unique attributes that have prepared them for the job. Hear more from three of them in the video player.