SOUTH SLOPE — Crime dropped in schools last year and the number of weapons found on students increased, and Mayor Bill de Blasio says both trends are linked to the same thing: better communication and collaboration between the NYPD’s school safety agents and school communities.
The 2016-2017 school year was the safest on record, de Blasio said Tuesday, citing the crime statistics the NYPD has tracked since assuming a greater role in schools in 2008.
He credited the drop in crime to the $47 million investment in bolstering mental health supports and expanding training to de-escalate conflict and on crisis intervention, among other programs.
“These young people are being taught how to stop the problem before it begins,” de Blasio said.
City schools saw a 5 percent decrease in crime last school year to 503 incidents compared to 532 the year before. That marked an 18 percent drop since the mayor’s first full school year in 2014-2015, he said.
At the same time, school-related arrests were down 8 percent to about 1,240, and summonses were down 11 percent to roughly 833.
Meanwhile, however, the NYPD recovered nearly 1,430 weapons at schools last school year. The year before that, roughly 1,070 weapons were recovered, police officials said.
De Blasio praised the uptick.
“There’s a lot more dialogue going on between the NYPD and the DOE,” he said, comparing the approach the school safety agents are now taking to the neighborhood policing model.
“This kind of model gets young people to share information,” he said. “Better communication, better training, leads to more weapons being found.”
There’s been a big shift in how schools approach discipline, the mayor explained.
At South Slope’s M.S. 88, where de Blasio made his announcement, restorative justice practices are incorporated into the school day, focusing on positive behavioral approaches to discipline and promoting “restorative circles” where students create safe spaces to speak and share their feelings. The school also is part of the city’s Comfort Dog pilot program, giving stressed out students who need to cool down the chance to relax while petting Peetey, a shaggy Lhasa apso rescue dog.
The city is also piloting a program at 16 school campuses where students are given “warning cards” for actions that in the past may have resulted in summonses, like disorderly conduct or possession of small amounts of marijuana.
The program is helping kids change their behavior, he insisted.
“You can’t learn if you’re not in a safe environment,” the mayor added. “If kids are comfortable and feel safe, they are going to be their best selves and be able to learn. So, we believe in safety as a fundamental mission. That’s why we’ve seen the DOE and NYPD growing closer in their efforts.”
It is unclear, however, how often school safety agents sit in on the trainings held for teachers and other school staffers on the alternative practices, since the agents often need to be at their posts when such trainings are scheduled, DOE officials admitted.
An analysis from Families for Excellent Schools, a pro-charter group, claimed that the city failed to report 10,000 violent incidents at schools, citing state data showing 16,580 incidents.
But city officials disputed that data, saying that many incidents that the state characterized as assault — for instance, a first grader hitting another with an empty milk carton — would not be classified as such by the NYPD.
But city officials did praise the state’s data when it came to its list of “persistently dangerous" schools. Only two city schools made the list — Staten Island’s I.S. 49 and P.S. 183 in the Rockaways. That was down from 27 schools the year before.