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School Crime Rise Is Biggest in Decade : Education: The chief of city’s campus police says budget cuts have spread his staff too thin to counter the wrongdoing, which more and more involves violence.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Campus crime jumped 16.5% last year in San Diego city schools, the largest increase in more than a decade, the schools police chief reported Tuesday.

Violent crimes accounted for some of the biggest increases, according to the report by chief Alex Rascon. The number of assaults by students against other students rose by 46.7%; robberies by force among students more than doubled.

In addition, assaults by students or adults against teachers or other employees rose 27%; verbal threats by adults or students against employees rose 38% and confiscation of weapons on campus rose 13.5%.

Property crimes, mainly vandalism and theft, soared 25% in the nation’s eighth-largest urban school district, Rascon reported.

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The stunning increases come after several years in which overall school crime generally remained steady or declined slightly in some categories, Rascon said.

“The figures represent quite a jump,” Rascon said, contending that his full-time police staff of 37 peace officers is too small and spread out to adequately cover the district’s 141 schools.

Rascon warned that the figures do not take into account the climate of fear that these crimes create on campus. For example, he said, many students might give up their lunch money to a bully for “the entire year” and never report it because they fear retribution.

And he said the situation will get worse, because principals have been forced to lay off or cut hours of more than half of their part-time supervision aides. These 89 aides handled regular daytime control of campus problems, but eight have been terminated and 41 given fewer hours as a result of new requirements to pay all part-time district workers medical and other work-related benefits.

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The large majority of the crimes take place at city secondary schools, with the worst people-related crimes occurring not at the high schools but at junior high and middle schools, Rascon said.

Yet he has officers full-time at only two of the districts’s 20 junior high and middle schools--Wilson and Bell--because budget shortages have prevented additional hiring.

“I know it doesn’t make sense not to have a full-time officer at all of them,” but there isn’t the money, he said.

Eleven of the district’s 15 high schools have full-time officers, who not only monitor crime during the school day, but also oversee extracurricular sports and other activities.

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“So we’ve got less supervision (from instructional aides) and no increase in officers, and it won’t take kids long to see they’ll have more freedom on campus,” Rascon said. “It’s sad, but how can a principal and vice principal control a 60-acre campus?”

Rascon worried that the cuts could counter strong efforts during the past several years to cut down on student crimes at Memorial Junior High in Barrio Logan and at Morse and Lincoln highs by using supervision aides in prominent roles.

Schools Supt. Tom Payzant expressed worry Tuesday at the increase but said he had no quick solutions, given his budget constraints.

“I know the principals were particularly upset with what happened with the” supervision aide cuts, he said, “but we couldn’t do anything about that.”

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Payzant said the increasing crime “reflects the fact that we are now the sixth-largest city in the United States and the eighth-largest urban district (with 124,000 students).

“We have all the problems that go along with increasing size and diversity.”

Rascon cited a variety of reasons for the growing number of assaults, including the more multiethnic student makeup. The district is 37% white, 28% Latino, 19% Asian, and 16% African-American.

Many student assaults have come in recent years against Asian students, Rascon said, reflecting the newness of many Asian immigrants to the United States. As a consequence, the number of Asian gangs has sprouted, further increasing the level of violence, Rascon said.

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In many East San Diego areas, Rascon now has his patrols begin their late-afternoon shifts earlier, between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. when schools end for the day, in order to be a more visible presence and reduce conflicts as students leave campuses.

Rascon said the district had about 8,000 crimes last year, of which almost 3,000 were serious enough to require arrest reports and referral to the judicial system. The other 5,000 were minor enough to be handled by teachers, counselors and principals, he said.

In the major areas in which reports were filed, assaults by students against other students rose from 242 to 355, a 46.7% increase; assaults by students or adults against teachers or other employees rose from 59 to 75, a 27% increase; robbery by force against students rose from 20 to 41, a 105% increase; verbal threats by adults or students against employees rose from 29 to 40, a 38% increase; confiscation of weapons on campus rose from 126 to 143, a 13.5% increase; and handgun confiscations rose from 21 to 24, a 14% increase.

Vandalism increased from 471 to 589, a 25% jump, and thefts rose from 317 to 398, a 25.5% increase.

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Crime at School

Crimes by students against people and property were up this past year in the San Diego schools.

Crime 1989-90 1990-91 Assault w/deadly weapon 61 65 Assault/battery against employees 59 75 Assault/battery against students 242 355 Robbery by force against students 20 41 Weapons on campus 126 143 Possession of handguns 21 24 Vandalism 471 589 Theft 317 398 Threats to school officials 29 40

Source: San Diego Unified School District

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