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Williamsburg Police Pick Up 30 Percent More Truant Students

Cops of the 90th precinct have been picking up more truants this school year, said Deputy Inspector Michael Kemper.
Cops of the 90th precinct have been picking up more truants this school year, said Deputy Inspector Michael Kemper.
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DNAinfo/David Torres

BROOKLYN — A police crackdown on class-cutting students in the 90th Precinct in Williamsburg resulted in a 30 percent increase in truancy pickups in February, NYPD data show.

Deputy Inspector Michael Kemper said the uptick is tied to both an increase in truancy and his officers' increased vigilance.

"These kids should be at school," he said. "For every minute a child is in school learning it's a minute we know they're not victimizing others or being victimized."

In Williamsburg and Bushwick, cops picked up 30 students in one day alone in February, he said. In all, the truancy rate last month in the 90th Precinct saw the 30 percent spike compared to February 2011, NYPD data show.

Truancy pickups have increased 20 percent overall this school year, police said.

Kemper said his precinct's school team scouts out truants, and that every officer keeps on constant alert during school days for children who may be playing hooky. The students, who range in age from 7 to 18 years old, are not arrested and don't get marks on their legal record, he said.

Cops bring them back to school and their parents are notified.

Kemper said a number of reasons could be contributing to all the class cutting.

"It could be weather," he said, referring to the unusually mild temperatures that may be luring kids out of class.

Most truants are one-time offenders in middle or high school, and come from a wide array of schools in the area, Kemper said.

But some civil liberties advocates said the truancy enforcement can have mixed results.

"We don't see any positive victory in increased amount of contact between children and police," said Johanna Miller, assistant advocacy director for the New York Civil Liberties Union.

She said some students who are being picked up may simply be running late for school, yet are held in police vans while cops finish paperwork. And in that time, children end up missing school anyway.

"We've been told an officer only has to take a kid directly to school if it's convenient for that officer," she said.

But Kemper said police in his precinct always take students to their school unless their school is located outside the boundaries of the 90th Precinct. In that case, students go to a truancy center at 271 Melrose Place, which is staffed with school safety agents, a police officer and employees from the Board of Education, he said.

"Usually the process is quick. But sometimes it's not, depending on the situation that might arise," he said.

Kemper, whose officers pick up truants from 9 a.m. to 12:30 pm., said even tardy students are in danger of being picked up.

"If they're running late for school they're still truant," he said. "They should be in school, getting an education."