Nearly 150 truant students were picked up by Los Angeles police in the northeast San Fernando Valley area Thursday and Friday as part of a joint Police Department-school district program designed to reduce juvenile crime and keep youths in school.
Operation Stay in School deployed 16 Foothill Division officers Thursday between 9 a.m. and noon to look specifically looking for truant minors, said Sgt. Tom Gordon. Fourteen officers were deployed Friday.
Gordon said 76 teen-agers, ranging in age from 12 to 18, were detained Thursday, and about 68 Friday. Under the program, police do not arrest the youths, but hold them until a parent, relative or legal guardian picks them up from the police station.
Truants “are responsible for a large percentage of crimes,” said Gordon. “We did it early in the school year to get the message across that, if you are truant, there is a good chance you will end up detained.”
The program actually operates every day in either the Foothill or West Valley division stations. Two school district counselors are at the station to meet with detained children and their parents, said Mark Burdick, one of the counselors. Each day, about 20 children are picked up by police as part of their normal duties, Burdick said.
About once a month, though, police form a special squad to pick up truant students. After being detained, the teen-agers meet with counselors, who notify the child’s parents. Both the parents and the children are told of programs, such as continuation high schools, available to children who don’t want to attend regular school.