1. Briefly describe the structure of the program.
In 1992, the Stockton Police Department committed resources to developing Stocktonís Safe Schools program, an integral part of the Safe Stockton Plan. The Safe Schools program included the School Resource Officer (SRO) component in partnership with Stocktonís four school districts. The SRO program started with three police officers assigned to five schools with one of those officers being assigned full-time to Stockton Unified School Districtís Edison High School to assist in implementing a Drug-Free Zone program. The remaining officers split their time between two schools each. As of August, 1998, there are 21 officers at 42 locations full time. The program will gradually expand to 25 officers in 48 schools.
Presently, the SROs are assigned to teach Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) and Gang Resistance Education and Training (G.R.E.A.T.) to students in grades 5-12. For the younger children, officers conduct Safe Kids Academy, a series of safety and crime-prevention presentations. This program was, and continues to be, very popular with faculty, parents, and students in grades K-4. SROs are available to parents and students for counseling and to students for problem solving. The presence of the SROs creates a better understanding and improves communication between the community and the police, and gives Stocktonís young people positive role models. The SROs work with school staff and attendance counselors; they conduct home visits, patrol the campus area before and after school, and assist with after-school activities.
Additionally, SROs participate as members of the School District Drug Advisory Council and aid the School Site Committee. Most SROs are active in the P.T.S.A. at their designated schools, as well.
To give youths a safe place to study, the Stockton area libraries have extended their hours of operation and reestablished the book-mobile service using grant funds. Library staff and community volunteers have introduced home-work clubs where after-school tutoring is available at all school sites. Also, staff members from Parks and Recreation have been hired with grant funds to provide after-school recreational programs at all sites. Now these services are offered at all 42 school sites. Featured programs include "Book Buddies" and self-esteem education. Summer activities continue at each site. Some activities include camping trips and visits to amusement parks and major league baseball games.
2. When was the program created and why?
In 1992, the Stockton Police Department and others developed and implemented the Safe Schools component of Stocktonís community-policing model, Safe Stockton. Safe Schools features prevention, intervention, and enforcement strategies. In 1995, a Truancy and Curfew Center was opened to address problems with school attendance and problems with unsupervised youths. Additionally, crime has been reduced, particularly day-time burglaries, auto thefts, and strong-arm robberies.
The Truancy and Curfew components operate from the same Stockton Unified School District site. The San Joaquin County Probation Department assigns five probation officers to the site for follow-up. Also, mental health professionals and school counselors are on site to assist in evaluating each youth and then make appropriate referrals.
Working closely with the four school districts and other organizations, we have seen a decline in juvenile victimization and an improvement in school attendance and academic achievement.
3. How do you measure the programís effectiveness?
Several factors are reviewed (some daily) in an effort to determine the programís effectiveness. Regarding truancy, the number of truants has decreased steadily since 1995, the beginning of the program. The average daily attendance has increased in each of the four participating school districts. Academic achievement has improved, as well, and most importantly, campus violence has decreased significantly in each of the last four years. Participation in after-school programs has increased steadily with the increase in volunteers available to help with after-school programs, for example, "Book Buddies," home-work clubs, sports clubs, and the award-winning R.A.I.S.E. (Recreation Activities Include Self-esteem Education) program.
The success of the Safe Schools program has been phenomenal in terms of reducing campus violence, improving a sense of safety at school sites, and positively impacting the attitudes of young people by encouraging the development of healthy behaviors.
4. How is the program financed?
The School Resource Officers assigned to the Safe Schools program are veteran officers. Their positions in patrol are filled with newly hired officers who have recently graduated from local police academies. Most of the new positions have been grant-funded (Police Hiring Supplement, COPS AHEAD, and COPS Universal).
Additional revenue to pay for increased public safety comes from a gradual increase in the utility tax approved by the City Council in the early 1990's. This combination has helped the City increase its sworn strength by more than 100 positions since 1990.
Although Stockton applied for the COPS School-based Partnership grant, awards have not been announced as of this submittal, and the grant does not permit the hiring of police officers.
5. How is the community involved in the program?
Community partnerships play a big role in developing a solution. One example of such a cooperative venture includes police participation in late-night basketball programs. This collaborative effort involves volunteer police officers, school district gymnasiums, and staff and equipment from the Boys and Girls Club and the City Parks and Recreation Department.
In 1996, the Boys and Girls Club opened its third recreational site in Stockton: the Kelly Freed Center, which opened to give Stocktonís young people a safe place to participate in youth activities seven days a week. Officials from the Boys and Girls Club offer office space to the Police Department for use as a satellite office.
Other examples of community partnerships include a neighborhood business adopting a local school to "help" with the little things and youth soccer leagues being created at some of the sites.
6. What are the major lessons learned from the program?
Perhaps, the hardest lesson has been to be patient with expansion of the program. The implementation plan calls for expansion to occur in the fall of each year by adding three to four police officers and assigning each to two schools. Schools and school district officials want a quicker "build out." Also, the Department occasionally encounters a school wherein cooperation is lacking either at the administrative level or in the classroom. Like some police officers, some teachers are apathetic. While they, like most police officers, started their careers full of ideals about changing the world for the better, they have, over the years, become less enthusiastic. Matching the right personality/police officer to each school site is critical to success.
The successful expansion of the program has been helped by the establishment of a joint subcommittee of members of the City Council and the School District Board. Specifically, two Councilmembers meet monthly with two School Board members representing each of the four school districts. This "2 x 2" subcommittee has helped pave the way for the successful expansion of the Safe Schools program.
7. Contact person:
The United States Conference of Mayors
J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
Copyright © 1999, US Conference of Mayors, All rights reserved.