2,800 Arrested Near Schools in N.Y.C. Drug Plan
New York City's aggressive program to combat drug abuse among the young has netted more than 2,800 arrests in the vicinity of schools so far this academic year and is expanding its educational services.
The program, Operation specda--for Special Program to Educate and Control Drug Abuse--this month received a $50,000 grant from the New York City Youth Bureau, a division of the Mayor's office, to support educational programs for 50,000 students in about 156 targeted schools, said Peter Haley, spokesman for the youth bureau.
Meanwhile, New York City education and police officials also announced this month the approval of guidelines for allowing undercover police officers into schools to investigate suspected drug dealings.
The guidelines are awaiting approval by the Corporation Counsel, as the city's legal department is called. They include requirements that there be no "fishing expeditions"; that the undercover agents do not assume the identities of teachers, counselors, or others who must normally maintain the confidence of students; that the operation last no longer than a few days; and that all other alternatives be explored before an undercover operation is attempted.
The arrests made under Operation specda confirm what officials suspected about the gravity of drug abuse in and around city schools, according to Richard L. Shapiro, director of civilian-participation programs with the New York City Police Department.
From Sept. 20 to Feb. 4, the department made 2,836 arrests in the vicinity of 310 public or private schools, officials said. A total of 1,732 arrests were felonies, and 1,668 arrests were made near elementary schools. Of those arrested, 2,289 were 20 years of age or older; 486 were between 16 and 19; and 61 were under 16. Four percent of those arrested, officials said, were students.
"It has always been evident to us that there's been a problem with the sale and abuse of drugs in and around schools," Mr. Shapiro said. "The arrest activity verifies that this is in fact a serious problem."
Enforcement and Diversion
But Operation specda is more than enforcement, Mr. Shapiro said. The other two phases of the program are education and diversion.
As of Feb. 4, 32 police officers were assigned full time to Operation specda for activities other than enforcement. Another 150 community-affairs officers and 74 crime-prevention officers will dedicate 20 percent of their time to the program, according to department officials.
The officers will meet with students in their schools, neighborhoods, and other community facilities to provide positive role models and information about the dangers of drugs.
In addition to multimedia presen-tations in the schools, Mr. Shapiro said, the officers will hold youth programs at Fort Totten, a federal army facility in the borough of Queens, and organize neighborhood youth clubs to divert youngsters into constructive activities. Two of the city's community school districts have been targeted for intensive services.
The youth-club activities, designed by the police officers and the youngsters and supported in part by the Youth Bureau grant, include competitive break-dancing leagues, poster contests, newsletters, sports events, "rap" sessions, and the production of a film on a neighborhood and its drug problems.
"Each of the precinct coordinators working on these programs has been trained how to lever local funds, such as getting local merchants to contribute time, money, and effort, and getting the New York Board of Education to donate its film-production [services]," Mr. Shapiro said. "We hope to get $10 worth of program out of each dollar of funding."