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Local: Education

Crime jumps at D.C. elementary schools

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Local,DC,Education,Crime,Rachel Baye

Violent crime has jumped 33 percent at the District's public elementary schools this school year, while the amount of those crimes occurring at middle and high schools fell.

Public elementary schools saw 57 incidents of violent crime -- which includes robbery, assault, sex abuse and homicide -- on their campuses between Aug. 1, 2012, and May 21, 2013, compared with 43 incidents reported between Aug. 1, 2011 and July 31, 2012, according to data provided by D.C. police.

Nearly 60 percent of the crimes occurred at traditional public schools, the rest at charter schools. That roughly correlates with the 57 percent of public school students in the District who attend traditional schools.

By contrast, high school campuses reported 35 violent crimes this year, down from 44 last year, and middle schools had 43, down from 48. Overall, crime -- both violent crime and property crime -- at public schools in the District is down.

Among elementary schools, Imagine Southeast Public Charter School, a Ward 8 school offering preschool through seventh grade, had the highest number of violent crime incidents so far this school year, with police reports filed for three assaults and three robberies. Last year, the campus had two robberies and no assaults.

At the high school level, Eastern High School in Ward 6 -- which has only grades nine and 10 -- had the most violent crime, with four robberies and two assaults this year, up from two robberies last year. Last year, Ballou High School had the most violent crimes, with five robberies and three assaults.

When crime occurs on campus, parents often aren't notified.

For Ann McLeod, president of Garrison Elementary School's Parent Teacher Association, news of a crime at school comes in the form of excitement from her first-grade son when he sees police at school.

"Not that I think the school is going to tell us any specifics, but you would hope that they would say, 'You may have heard that there was an incident, and here's what we're doing to make sure it doesn't happen again,' " McLeod said.

Garrison saw five robberies last school year -- the highest number at an elementary school last year -- and one this year, at 11:07 a.m. on Thursday, Jan. 10.

An increase in crime could be caused in part by a weak economy, even at an elementary school, said Catherine Bradshaw, deputy director of the Johns Hopkins Center for the Prevention of Youth Violence. "Economic factors influence family stress and family stability, and that can be passed along to some kids."

But weak finances also can lead a school system to cut back on many of the prevention services, such as school counseling, that help prevent crime, Bradshaw said.

In the District, the Metropolitan Police Department uses a fleet of nearly 100 school resource officers -- police officers embedded at schools -- and contracts with private security guards to manage crimes in schools, said spokeswoman Gwendolyn Crump.

Crime is usually at the top of parents' list of factors when choosing a school, though often they pay more attention to the level of crime on the route to and from school than the level of crime at the school itself, said David Pickens, executive director of DC School Reform Now, a nonprofit advocacy group.

Even if students don't witness a crime firsthand, just knowing it happened at their school can make them feel less safe, Bradshaw said. "As kids are exposed to violent acts in schools, it can change the way they view the world."

School crime data
Note: Some schools have been categorized as both elementary and middle or both middle and high, resulting in some crimes being counted twice. (Source: Metropolitan Police Department)
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