CITY OF RIO RANCHO, NM
Mayor John M. Jennings

A PROGRAM TO PREVENT SCHOOL VIOLENCE
ON THE HIGH SCHOOL CAMPUS

1. Briefly describe the structure of your program.

The High School Investigator Program (HSIP) will focus on issues involving youth and gang violence originating at the local high school or occurring on high school property with the major objective being to limit the number of occurrences, thereby creating a safer environment for all persons associated with the school. This will be accomplished by: 1) Employing a full-time High School Criminal Investigator assigned to the high school, 2) Providing overtime monies to pay Rio Rancho Criminal Investigations Unit investigators and school resource officers to work extracurricular school functions such as sports and dance events, 3) Identifying the numbers and types of gangs represented on campus, 4) investigating 100% of reported violent criminal cases involving gangs and youth on campus, 5) providing training to school personnel and campus aides to identify gang dress and related paraphernalia/graffiti, 6) compiling gang intelligence to be entered into the G.R.E.A.T. file in conjunction with the New Mexico Street & Gang Task Force, 7) Developing a reward program to encourage youth to report information regarding criminal activity occurring on campus called P.A.S.S. (Promoting A Safe School), 8) Creating a S.a.F.E. (Students and Teachers Empowered) School Committee to address safety concerns on campus. The High School Investigator Program will utilize these methods/resources in an effort to control violent crime occurring on our high school campus which will impact positively on the community as a whole.

Youth who are involved in criminal activity on school property are also involved in thefts, burglaries, drugs, alcohol, curfew and other offenses when away from school. The impact of enforcement for school related criminal activity and violence will be widespread to the rest of the City because these youth do not limit their crimes to one locale. Identifying high risk youth on campus who are involved in violent crimes and symptomatic crimes associated with criminal youth gangs is paramount and the program will take the initiative in gathering intelligence and information on high risk youth.

The High School Investigator Program will approach the problem in a multi-tiered manner:

1. Ready availability to handle criminal acts on school campus, with a focus on gang activity, assaults and batteries and other violent behavior in both proactive and reactive enforcement methods.

2. Investigating incidents of youth and gang related crimes on campus to identify, adjudicate and prosecute the offender(s);

3. Identifying, intervening and prosecuting violent youth offenders in cooperation with the Juvenile Probation and Parole Office, Rio Rancho Department of Public Safety and the Rio Rancho Public Schools;

4. Sharing information and intelligence with local law enforcement agencies, Region I Drug Task Force, NM Street Gang Task Force and other State agencies as appropriate.

5. Providing additional investigators trained in gang identification and techniques to attend after school events and appropriately handle incidents of gang activity or violence.

GOALS:

1) Decrease the incidence of youth and gang violence at the Rio Rancho High School through proactive measures and strict enforcement.

2) Establish a safe learning environment where high school youth have the opportunity to obtain an education free of the fear associated with gangs and violence; bring the school administration, the students law enforcement together as a team to maintain control of the school.

3) Impact Youth and Gang violence on campus during school hours and after school during extracurricular events, thereby impacting gang activity in the region and statewide.

4) Ensure the integrity of the HSIP program and maintain accurate records and statistics and document that RRDPS is providing adequate and efficient service to the school and the community in regard to gang and violence intervention.

Objectives established are:

  • Objective 1: To reduce the incidence of youth related assaults and batteries through a systematic approach incorporating early detection, prevention, intervention, enforcement, and prosecution of youth involved in criminal gang activity or in other violent behavior.
  • Project Activity 1.1: Select an investigator to implement the High School Investigator Program.
  • Project Activity 1.2: Assign qualified investigators to work overtime at extracurricular high school events.
  • Objective 2: To implement proactive and reactive steps using a system made of consequences, accountability and responsibility
  • Project Activity 2.1: Institute a Pilot Program (PASS), to monetarily reward a student who reports criminal activity or identifies a student or visitor who brings a firearm or deadly weapon onto campus.
  • Project Activity 2.2: The investigator will work closely with the high school security aids in maintaining a well-monitored environment, including parking lots to deter auto burglaries..
  • Project Activity 2.3: The investigator will maintain a high profile in areas where students congregate during lunch and breaks.
  • Project Activity 2.4: All known gang members who are identified will be documented into the G.R.E.A.T. data base.
  • Project Activity 2.5: All reported felony cases will be investigated and charges will be filed if the circumstances dictate.
  • Project Activity 2.6: Develop strategies to break the code of silence among students and enable students to take ownership of plans for the safety of all by reporting weapons on campus or other threats to the health and welfare of all persons on the school campus.
  • Objective 3: To provide an evaluation format of the effectiveness and efficiency of the Program in reducing youth and gang violent crime through identification, intervention, prosecution and adjudication techniques.
  • Project Activity 3.1: Develop a form which will track the investigatorís contacts with students and the number of gang members identified.
  • Project Activity 3.2: Track all juvenile cases occurring on the school campus. The cases will be tracked from start to finish to make sure correct procedures are followed.
  • Objective 4: Target and minimize gang activity on campus through high profile patrols and early intervention during school hours and other times that the school property is open to the students and public when a probability of gang activity exists.
  • Project Activity 4.1: Take a zero tolerance stance concerning gang activity on campus. Any gang member observed wearing gang attire, displaying gang signs or in possession of gang type paraphernalia will be immediately separated from the student body and corrective action taken.
  • Project Activity 4.2: Provide a minimum of two investigators, highly trained in recognizing gang behavior at all extra-curricular activities where there is a probability of gangs congregating or juvenile violence.
  • Objective 5: Create a positive relationship with high school students and staff and gain their trust to facilitate information and involve them in keeping the school safe.
  • Project Activity 5.1: Build a strong rapport with students through personal contact and an open door policy.
  • Project Activity 5.2: Facilitate the implementation of a SAFE (Students And Faculty Empowered) School Planning committee to research and make recommendations to improve campus safety.
  • Objective 6: Develop procedures and methods to control the introduction of weapons into the school environment.
  • Project Activity 6.1: Purchase a metal detector that may be used when a student or visitor is suspected of carrying a deadly weapon onto campus.
  • Project Activity 6.2: Endorse the proposal that book lockers will not be installed in the High School. Within 30 days, have trained a minimum of 10 criminal investigators or School Resource Officers in recognizing gang behavior, dress, graffiti and hand signs. They will then be assigned to work overtime at extra curricular events.

2. When was the program created and why?

Prior to the 1997 school year, the Rio Rancho School District did not have its own High School. The new school which was scheduled to open in 1997 was expected to have an enrollment of over 2000 students. The need for a law enforcement presence at the school as a proactive measure to limit youth and gang related violence was identified. Lt. Karl Wiese, the Criminal Investigations Commander, wrote and submitted a grant application to the N.M. Department of Public Safety Office of Grants Management requesting funding for a High School Investigator Program to cover salary and overtime. The Investigator was selected and assigned to the school two weeks before the first day of school.

3. How do you measure the programís effectiveness?

The Investigator will compare statistical data about violent juvenile acts in the area where he is maintaining a high profile to the number of violent juvenile acts reported in areas where the investigator is not maintaining a high profile.

The investigator will document the number of cases in which a student provides him with unsolicited information to determine if the voluntary contacts increase or decrease throughout the school year.

The statistical data obtained over a three month period will be compared with the statistical data obtained over the previous three month period as an indicator of the performance of the program.

The Department will statistically track all those incidents which are reported to the P.A.S.S. Program and the percentage of criminal convictions obtained by utilizing those tips.

The Investigator will meet with a Juvenile Probation Officer on a quarterly basis to determine the outcome on all juvenile cases the investigator has forwarded to the Juvenile Probation and Parole Office for adjudication. The conviction rate which the high school investigator obtains will then be compared to the average conviction rate for the entire Department.

Document all instances in which a student is suspended or expelled from school for gang related offenses or violent offenses to determine if there has been an impact on gang activity.

Document all juvenile investigative contacts, arrests and investigations that take place while investigators are working extracurricular events. A decrease in occurrences should be noted if the presence of the investigators has been effective.

Complete the outline on the policies and procedures of the P.A.S.S. Program in conjunction with the Safe School Planning Committee.

Evaluate security issues pertaining to the student and staff parking lots and then complete an evaluation study with recommendations. Copies of the study will be forwarded to the school administration as well as through the investigatorís chain of command for input.

Hard copies of all gang cards will be kept on file at the Department. These cards will be tracked by the immediate supervisor of the high school investigator for accuracy and compliance with G.R.E.A.T. criteria. The information will be entered into the G.R.E.A.T. database.

All felony and misdemeanor cases completed by the high school investigator will be forwarded to the investigatorís immediate supervisor. These cases will be plotted and any criminal patterns developing may be addressed at that time. The supervisor will determine if the cases are being investigated appropriately and if the report adequately documents the incidents.

4. How is the program financed?

The Department received a grant award under the Drug Control and System Improvement Formula Grant Program in the amount of $45.000.00. This amount was used to cover salary, benefits and overtime for the program. The Department match funding for the program was a new vehicle for the Investigator and related equipment and supplies. This amounted to approximately $20,000.00. The School District provided a computer and office space, including the cost of any utilities.

5. How is the community involved in the program?

The program did not involve the community directly in its function. However, the community was involved to a degree because of the contacts the investigator had with parents, and the contacts he made at extracurricular events which were attended by members of the community at large. A sense of confidence was established with the community that the High School would be a relatively safe environment.

6. What are the major lessons learned from this program?

One of the major problems that we identified early on is that school officials did not like incidents which occurred on campus to be reported. The local newspaper took information from the offense reports and made headline stories out of some of the incidents. The reporting process was changed so that very minor incidents like simple assaults and petty larcenies were documented on an in-school report. Because of the school administrationís opposition to the reporting of criminal activity, the relationship between the investigator and the staff was often confrontational. This improved through the year but was never totally resolved. We learned that a police officer must adapt his perspective in accordance with the school environment and philosophy to be effective.

7. Contact person:

Lieutenant Karl R. Wiese

Rio Rancho Department of Public Safety

(505) 896-8748

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