School safety agents across New York City will be outfitted with bullet-resistant vests as soon as next school year as the NYPD tries to tamp down the growing increase in youth-on-youth violence, the Daily News has learned.
The Police Department last week ordered that school safety agents — unarmed NYPD employees posted in city schools — will be “issued a durable and lightweight ballistic resistant vest, funded by the department.”
The decision was made after a pilot program in which 300 school safety agents across the city were given vests.
“The pilot program was very successful and aided in the safety of our school safety agents,” an NYPD spokesman said, adding that the vests will be “mandatory for all members assigned to the NYPD School Safety Division to wear while performing their duties in uniform.”
Roughly 3,900 safety agents work in city schools.
The agents will have to wear the vests inside schools and outside schools as they monitor dismissal times.
School safety agents cheered the additional protection, which they’ve been requesting since Ray Kelly was the police commissioner under Mayor Michael Bloomberg more than a decade ago, said Greg Floyd, president of Teamsters Local 237, the agents’ union.
“This is something we’ve asked for many years after weapons collections increased,” Floyd said. “(The NYPD) is measuring our agents for the vests as we speak.”
It was not immediately clear if every agent will have a vest before September classes begin.
Close to 7,000 weapons of varying types were recovered by school safety agents during the last school year, Floyd said, adding that the confiscation of firearms “reached double digits,” he said.
In the 2022-2023 school year, 15 firearms were recovered in city public schools, police data shows. Twenty-one firearms were recovered in in the 2021-2022 school year, police say.
The move to provide vests for school safety officers comes as both shooting victims and shooting suspects are skewing younger, thanks mostly to ongoing gang clashes in the city, cops said.
NYPD officials said that 62 out of the city’s 620 shooting victims this year — or 10% — are under the age of 18, while 14% of those arrested for shootings were younger than 18.
Many of these victims were shot near city schools, officials said.
Two teens and a 37-year-old security guard were hit by gunfire in February outside the Williamsburg Charter High School on Varet St. in Brooklyn after a large brawl broke out as classes ended for the day. In December, a girl was shot and wounded outside the same school, police said.
Two other Williamsburg students were shot and wounded outside another high school in the same neighborhood in February, police said.
The uptick in shootings around schools led NYPD Chief of Department Jeffrey Maddrey to assign local precinct cops to neighborhood schools at dismissal time for the rest of the school year.
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Despite the increase in weapons and violence around schools, civil rights and education groups have been urging city officials to remove safety agents from schools and scrap plans to hire more agents.
Divina Ramirez, 17, a recent Brooklyn high school graduate, said money allocated to school safety agents should go toward healthcare and after-school programs that keep teens safe, instead of “further militarizing our schools.”
“Eric Adams needs to re-think where his priorities lie for NYC students,” said Ramirez, who is part of the student group Urban Youth Collaborative, which advocates against police in schools. “He is putting our futures at risk.”
Floyd noted that many school advocates would would like to do away with the school safety agents. He believes that removing the agents would make schools less safe.
“A vest is just protection. It’s not a gun or a tool to use against someone,” Floyd said..
Of people opposed to fitting the officers with vests, Floyd said: “They do not have the right to tell individuals that they can’t protect themselves.”
Department of Education officials declined to comment on the vest issue.