School Safety

April 07, 2004 1 min read

Curbing Crime

New York City’s “dirty dozen” schools are looking a little bit safer these days.

Three months after Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein announced a program to clean up the 12 schools deemed the most dangerous in the city, data released by the city education agency in mid-March showed improvement.

Those schools averaged 3.02 criminal incidents per day over the past three months, down nearly 9 percent from 3.3 incidents per day in November and December.

The number of citations for noncriminal incidents, meanwhile, rose 72 percent, to an average of 14.8 incidents a day in each school from January through March, up from 8.6 a day during the last two months of 2003.

But the increase in such citations is part of the strategy, officials say. John Feinblatt, the city’s criminal-justice coordinator, called the results “the classic broken-window strategy,” according to a March 25 edition of The New York Times. “By enforcing and taking care and paying attention to the ‘broken windows’ of a school, you set a tone of order and expectations,” he told the newspaper, “and what follows from that is that criminal incidents will start to go down.”

Officially called “impact schools,” the two middle schools and 10 high schools were picked for the first phase of a new citywide school safety plan based on crime and other types of data. The schools with the most serious crime levels were chosen based on the number of incidents involving assaults, weapons offenses, and the total number of crimes for last year.

Through Nov. 30 of last year, the schools, which constitute less than 1 percent of the city’s school system enrollment, accounted for 13 percent of all serious crimes and 11 percent of the total safety incidents in New York City schools, officials say.

The city police doubled the number of officers assigned at each site and formed a 150-member task force of officers to focus on danger zones such as hallways and cafeterias, monitor the perimeters of the schools, and organize truancy sweeps, according to the plan unveiled in January. Each school gets regular visits by school-safety teams made up of police officers, community workers, and educators. The goal is to revise safety procedures to improve school environments.

Darcia Harris Bowman