PISD police work to prevent crimes on campus

(From The Pasadena Citizen- December 28, 2003)

The Pasadena Independent School District Uniform Crime Report shows that campus police make arrests at every high school in the district each year. However, despite the crime, both district administrators and the school police department agree that school is the safest place for a child to be during the day.

"Each school campus is like society, except there is a lower crime rate at school because there is a higher rate of authority compared to outside schools," said Troy Harrison, PISD assistant police chief.
Crimes reflect what is happening outside of school, and a noticeable increase of students with Xanax, a narcotic drug, has been reported, said Harrison.

Harrison thinks the students are being supplied from the streets. He said a student who had more than 20 pills was recently arrested and will be charged with possession with intent to deliver. Another student was charged with delivery of Xanax this year. Both students, if convicted, could face felony charges.

"It is the drug of choice," said Harold Nassif, PISD police captain. "Xanax is readily available. It is like Valium used to be."

Marijuana is also found in the district, and 38 arrests for possession have been reported this school year.

"Students will hide tobacco products outside of the school," Nassif said, adding that since the cost of marijuana is so much more, the students want to keep it with them. In the past two years, more students have been arrested for possession of marijuana than for the possession of tobacco.

The district has a zero tolerance policy for drugs. Those caught with drugs are expelled and are reassigned to an alternative school, Harrison said.

A very low percentage of the students are using drugs, according to Nassif, who said, "many tips are received from students.

"They don't want drugs in their schools," he said.

The PISD police department has made 72 drug arrests during the first half of the school year, compared to 126 arrests made during the past school year.

Harrison said that parents need to know their children so they may be able to tell if their children are using drugs. A change in attitude and behavior can be signs of drug use, he said.

The district uses a K-9 officer for random drug detection in the schools and in the parking lots.

The district police also make other types of arrests, including weapons found at the schools, disorderly conduct and thefts.

During this school year, three guns have been found. Earlier in the year, two guns were found and both a student and a non-student were arrested. Another handgun was found shortly before Christmas break in a restroom trash can. No arrests have been made in association with the third found gun. Last year, there were no guns found.

The district will also arrest students who are caught carrying illegal knives, such as spring- loaded knives or butterfly knives. This year five illegal knives have been found. Last school year, only four illegal knives were found.

The PISD schools have metal detectors, which are used at random or when a tip is received that someone might be carrying a weapon to school, Nassif said.

Disorderly conduct is also on the rise in the district, which Kirk Lewis, PISD spokesman, attributes to a growing school population.

So far this year, there have been 342 arrests, compared to 505 disruptive arrests during the past school year. The district also reports thefts and property damages each year, but Nassif said most students have pride in their schools.

Lewis said the district has taken precautions in the past 10 years to ensure the safety of students. He said violence in the schools has been linked to bullying, and the district tries to stop any problems before they escalate.

The district placed video cameras at all secondary schools and installed telephones in every classroom in the district, Lewis said.

A dress code is also in place, limiting what is worn at schools.

Nassif said the dress code has been positive for the district.

"Anyone entering the school usually sticks out like a sore thumb," he said.

And, he said, it also limits contraband which can be hidden in loose fitting clothes.

Overall, there is not a lot of crime in the district, Lewis said. While the district is not perfect, compared to other schools the same size, the district has very low numbers.

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