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Valley Schools Top Crime List : Officials Say Campuses Relatively Safe, Call Statistics Misleading

Times Staff Writer

Campuses in the San Fernando Valley were the most dangerous in the Los Angeles city school system last year, according to crime figures released this week by school officials.

More incidents of theft, vandalism, assault and other crimes were reported at Valley campuses than anywhere else in the sprawling district, including inner-city schools with reputations for toughness.

Reported crime shot up 241% at Woodland Hills’ El Camino Real High School, which is in an upper-middle-class residential neighborhood.

Up 500% at Hamlin School

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It was up 500% at Hamlin Street Elementary School in neighboring Canoga Park.

But the statistics were accompanied by assertions from school officials that the figures are misleading and that campuses, including those in the Valley, are safer than they might seem.

“The schools are probably the safest place in the community to be,” school district Police Chief Richard W. Green said Thursday. “There’s more supervision per square foot in school then in any other place in the community.”

A total of 1,737 crimes were reported during the 1884-85 academic year at campuses in the region of the school district that covers the southern half of the Valley. Campuses in the region north of Roscoe Boulevard reported 1,949 crimes.

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The reported crimes in the Valley schools represented a 1.8% increase from the previous school year, whereas crime increased 7% districtwide during the same period.

But none of the school district’s other six regional zones, each of which contains about the same number of students, topped the Valley totals. Runners-up were Hollywood-West Los Angeles with 1,691 reported criminal incidents and South-Central Los Angeles with 1,603. Districtwide, 12,485 incidents were reported.

Linked to East Valley

“It shows that the inner-city has come to the outer city,” Valley school board member Roberta Weintraub said Thursday. “The Valley schools’ crime rate has been climbing for years. It’s a direct reaction to overcrowding and changes in the East Valley.”

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Weintraub said the crime figures are further proof that the era of open gates at neighborhood Valley schools is ending. She said the Valley needs to take heed from South-Central and East Los Angeles, “where they have been seriously dealing with crime for a long time.”

She said she has asked the school district to do a demographic analysis of Valley schools. “I feel if we were to break it down, I think we’d be very surprised,” she said. “The Valley is no longer lily-white.”

District officials said the Valley schools’ crime rate is not tied to the major busing program that daily transports thousands of inner-city children to Valley campuses. The busing includes youngsters enrolled in a voluntary integration program as well as children ordered bused from crowded schools.

‘An Offensive Assumption’

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“It’s an offensive assumption that along with the bus comes crime. I don’t think that anything like that could be farther from the truth,” said school board member Rita Walters, who represents South-Central Los Angeles.

“Our children are a part of the community,” she said, “and they reflect what’s going on in that larger community.”

Walters also said the crime statistics compiled by the district can also be misleading.

Pointing to the 500% crime increase at Canoga Park’s Hamlin Street School, Walters said that reflected merely “one child doing something last year and six doing it this year. That’s hardly a crime wave.” Hamlin Street School’s six crimes during the last academic year were three burglaries, one theft and two acts of vandalism, the district said.

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The 241% crime increase registered at El Camino Real High also fails to tell the whole picture there, officials said. The Woodland Hills school recorded 87 crimes, contrasted with the 55 reported at Manual Arts High and the 66 at Crenshaw High, both inner-city schools.

El Camino’s crimes included 22 thefts, 14 narcotics incidents, 10 acts of vandalism and 9 burglaries. There were one robbery and six fights. During the 1983-84 school year, 27 crimes had been reported at the Woodland Hills school.

Increase in Students Noted

“What those figures don’t show is we added the ninth grade to our school last year and increased the number of students from 1,900 to 2,600,” Principal Larry Foster said. “That alone could have accounted for the increase. But we also had a police drug bust on campus that added to the totals.”

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Foster said crime involving minority students bused to his campus was proportional to their numbers. This year, about 900 of El Camino’s 3,200 students are being bused to school.

District Police Chief Green said Valley residents--not bused-in students--are likely to blame for most school break-ins and malicious mischief on Valley school grounds.

“The burglaries and vandalism you have out there are probably done by local people,” he said. “There are those who’d like to believe it’s due to busing, but we can’t find anything to support that.

”. . . Look at your communities in the Valley. They aren’t the same as they used to be. The schools just reflect the community they’re in.”

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The crime statistics, compiled by Green’s staff, show that schools in the southern half of the Valley last year recorded 27 robberies, 148 assaults, 49 sex offenses, 385 burglaries, 304 thefts, 319 acts of vandalism, 10 cases of arson, 173 narcotics incidents, 56 trespassing incidents and 266 other offenses.

North Valley Tallies

Schools in the northern half of the Valley tallied 6 robberies, 173 assaults, 58 sex offenses, 442 burglaries, 369 thefts, 337 acts of vandalism, 6 arson cases, 205 drug offenses, 42 trespassing cases and 311 other crimes.

The south Valley totals were up 10% over 1983-84, while the north Valley totals were down 10%.

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Citywide, officials said, 4,888 of the district’s 565,000 pupils were arrested for crimes or detained as suspects. Twenty-three of them were only 6 years old.

Many Valley schools showed decreases in the numbers of reported crimes last year--including San Fernando High School, which recorded a 27% drop. Nonetheless, its 120 reported incidents were second in the Valley only to Reseda High’s 131 incidents.

School district Police Officer Carl McCraven, one of two officers assigned to the San Fernando High campus, attributed the drop to aggressiveness on the part of the school’s administrators and teachers.

“The deans walk around; they don’t sit in their offices,” McCraven said Thursday as he strolled along the school’s covered center-court walkways, chatting with students. “The instructors aren’t afraid to point out individuals in their classrooms who have problems.”

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McCraven, who belongs to a 303-member district police force that stations officers at every high school and at most junior highs, said things were quiet Thursday at his school.

“The kids here will point out troublemakers before things happen. They have pride in their school,” he said.


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