A NYPD School Safety vehicle outside Edward R. Murrow High School at 1600 Avenue L in Brooklyn on Tuesday December 5, 2023. (Theodore Parisienne for New York Daily News)
New York City public schools are beefing up security by adding hundreds of school safety agents and new, less intrusive scanners, the Daily News has learned.
NYPD will hire at least 650 “assistant” school safety agents, a new position aimed at recruiting young people to the workforce, police said Thursday. The city will outfit 79 schools with the new scanners, while another nine schools will be subject to random scanning.
The moves come amid renewed concerns over violence at city schools after a 15-year-old boy was stabbed in a gang-related clash at a Brooklyn high school last week. After the violence, authorities seized more than a dozen knives, two stun guns and several canisters of pepper spray from students.
Nearly 7,000 weapons were confiscated in public schools last year, an almost 160% increase compared with the 2018-19 school year, according to data shared with reporters this fall.
The new initiatives were approved earlier this week by the Office of Management and Budget, budget director Jacques Jiha said at a media briefing Tuesday.
“The program is an excellent program with the school safety agents,” Mayor Adams told reporters, “because we’re having a problem of retention with school safety agents.”
“And those scanners that you’re talking about, those are the scanners that I sent out my team to find, non-invasive scanners, you know, because I believe in technology,” he said, responding to a question from the NYC School Safety Coalition.
Another initiative, a tip-line to warn schools of potential violence, has been delayed, The News has learned.
The assistant school safety agents will initially be assigned to elementary schools, police said. Applicants may be as young as 18, and need a high school diploma or GED and to complete a 20-week training. They will earn an approximate $33,000 salary.
Adams and the school safety agents union were optimistic the program could help build a pipeline to get more young people interested in becoming agents, which is a shortage area.
“It’s like an apprenticeship,” said Greg Floyd, president of the union Teamsters Local 237. “I think it’s a good idea to give young people a job, to start in the civil service system.”
In testimony before the City Council this fall, NYPD Inspector Kevin Taylor, who leads the School Safety Division, said there are currently about 3,930 school safety agents on the municipal payroll — down roughly 1,000 compared with pre-pandemic levels.
The program’s approval came a week after The News reported the city is scaling back its latest class of school safety agents to 120 new hires.
“This is now going to allow for us to replace some of the agents that are either taking other jobs and moving on,” Mark Rampersant, security director at the Department of Education, told Bronx parents last week.
Training for the assistant position could begin as soon as the new year, according to the NYPD.
Metal detector company CEIA is supplying less-invasive “Opengate” scanners, police said — formed by two 25-pound, free-standing pillars that students can wear coats while passing through.
All older scanners will be removed from schools, and police anticipate rolling out the new detection system in the next several months.
While both school safety programs move ahead, questions are arising about the anticipated launch of a “tip-line” students could call into anonymously with any word they have of violence or threats in their schools.
In early September, NYPD Commissioner Ed Caban said the hotline will be a key part of the city’s back-to-school safety protocol. At the time, Caban told reporters it would be “up and running this fall.”
The initiative is aimed at preventing violence before it happens and encourages young people to report conflict before anyone is hurt.
But as of this week, the tip-line is still not activated — even though it appears ready to be deployed, with a phone number already assigned to it, according to two sources directly familiar with the matter.
The Department of Education has a poster drawn up that it’s going to display in schools to advertise the resource. The poster, a copy of which was obtained by The News, features the phone number along with the message, “Help keep your schools safe.”
Its delay comes a week after a 12-year-old girl was stabbed in the leg inside a Bronx middle school classroom after she publicly taunted another girl on TikTok, police said at the time.
It was not immediately unclear why the launch was delayed. Spokespeople for City Hall and the NYPD did not return requests for comment Thursday on the matter.
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