VINELAND — City police say they are now posting all arrests made at local schools on the department’s Web pages.
The postings are not related to an increase in violence or other incidents at the schools, or with the way local educators are handling those problems, said Capt. Rudy Beu of the Police Department.
“It’s not a change in policy,” Beu said. “It’s the way it always should have been done. You will see more of that.”
School district officials will not say whether they are pleased with the decision of the Police Department, which already has announced the arrests of 20 students since Jan. 2 on its Facebook and Citizen Observer Web pages. City police routinely post information about incidents such as arrests, investigations and accidents on those pages.
However, Superintendent of Schools Mary Gruccio said the Police Department’s action is prompting a review of all incidents — ranging from violence to vandalism to the discovery of weapons and illegal substances — that school districts must report to the state. The review is to be finished in time for a scheduled March 26 safety committee meeting that involves officials from the school district and the Police Department, she said.
“I want to get all the facts,” Gruccio said. “What are the arrests for? Are they warranted?”
While Gruccio said she did not have exact numbers Monday, she said that district officials believe the number of incidents for this school year have decreased from the number of incidents that occurred at the same point in the 2011-12 school year.
Beu said the number of arrests local police made at district schools this year is about the same as they made at this point in the previous school year. Exact numbers were not available.
Beu said the Police Department is also undertaking a review of its own: This will involve a five-year look at incidents that require police attention at district schools. The results will give the department a better look at police activities at the schools than would a year-over-year review.
The Police Department’s latest posting of school incidents includes the arrest of a 17-year-old boy on a juvenile complaint charging possession of weapons on school property and possession of drug paraphernalia. Police allegedly found a sheathed, 6-inch hunting knife, a container of pepper spray and a small scale in the boy’s car at Vineland High School on Jan. 28.
That posting also reports the arrest of seven other students at Vineland High School and the Sgt. Anthony Rossi Intermediate School for incidents that occurred on Jan. 25 and 28. The incidents involved drug possession, disorderly conduct, theft and harassment.
School districts are required to annually report instances of violence, vandalism, substance abuse and other related incidents to the state Department of Education. The accuracy of the reports have drawn criticism over the years, particularly for how school districts interpret what should and should not be reported to the state.
The most recent state reports are for the 2011-12 school year. The reports show the district reported 181 incidents for that school year, fewer than the 273 incidents reported for 2010-11 and the 239 incidents reported for 2009-10. Most of the incidents occurred at Vineland High School, the reports show.
The reports show the school district averaged 9,678 students for that three-year period. That makes it the region’s largest school district, followed by Egg Harbor Township and Atlantic City in Atlantic County, and Millville and Bridgeton in Cumberland County.
The numbers show that the city’s school district averaged one state-reportable incident for every 42 students during that three-year period. The numbers also work out to one incident for every 57 students in Egg Harbor Township, 33 students in Atlantic City, 46 students in Millville, and 117 students in Bridgeton for the same period.
Beu said problems at Vineland’s schools are primarily handled by the Police Department’s Juvenile Unit, which recently got extra staff. He declined to say how many people now work with the unit.
Members of the unit visit all city schools, but are at Vineland High School on a daily basis, he said.
“We try to make ourselves visible,” Beu said.
Beu said the Police Department gets excellent cooperation with the school district and its security staff. Police Department and school district security help each other, often by sharing information, he said.
“Vineland runs a tight ship,” Beu said of the school district. “We don’t have any issues with them. They have a lot of zero-tolerance policies.”
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