Police assigned to high schools in Howard as crime deterrent Program aims to build rapport with students

April 26, 1996|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,SUN STAFF

Two Howard County police officers have been assigned full time to high schools to combat rising juvenile crime and to build rapport with students, under an initiative formally unveiled yesterday by county, police and school officials.

The plan -- which puts two officers in each of the county's eight high schools at least one day a week -- apparently makes Howard the first suburban school system in the Baltimore area to assign police full time to high schools.

Baltimore City has its own school police force.

"This is such an important step in preventing the escalation of juvenile crime and juvenile problems," said Susan Cook, chairwoman of the Howard County school board, in a news conference yesterday afternoon.

She called it a "pro-active response" to Howard's "false sense of security."

Howard Police Chief James N. Robey said the program will help the department fight Howard's youth crime and gang activity by letting police "interact with the students in a nonconfrontational situation."

Serious juvenile crime and school system suspensions for violent behavior have been rising in recent years, school and police officials said.

The number of suspensions for violent behavior rose 34.7 percent from the 1993-1994 school year to the next, although enrollment increased less than 5 percent.

The number of robberies by youths in Howard rose from 19 in 1994 to 25 last year, and the number of aggravated assaults increased from 53 in 1994 to 79.

Chief Robey said the "escalation of not just juvenile crime but serious crime" prompted him to support the program -- an idea proposed by schools Superintendent Michael E. Hickey.

But Chief Robey and other officials emphasized the situation hasn't gotten out of hand.

"Things are not that bad, but we're going to act and take positive steps before they become that bad," he said.

The officers assigned to the program will serve several functions at the high schools, including role model, mentor and educator. They also will be expected to deter crime and to handle nonemergency police calls -- lessening the demand on patrol cars that regularly respond to the schools.

Pub Date: 4/26/96

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