Fewer drugs and guns in city schools


For the eighth year in a row, fewer guns got into the Baltimore schools during the last school year, and drug violations continued to drop, according to school police. There were also fewer assaults with deadly weapons -- which can range from brass knuckles to knives and guns.

But more students came to school with such weapons during the 1990-1991 school year. And there was a sudden leap in the number of sex offenses reported to school police.

School officials attribute the 122 percent jump to a mandate from the superintendent's office to report all possible sex offenses.

Overall crime incidents were up 42 percent -- with 2,193 incidents, compared to 1,547 the previous year. Part of the increase reflects a new state law making the possession of beepers illegal, said Chief Larry Burgan of the school police.

The law, which took effect July 1, 1990, is responsible for a 606 percent increase in the number of miscellaneous crimes -- misdemeanors ranging from setting off a false fire alarm to carrying firecrackers. There were 233 such crimes in 1990-1991 compared with 33 in 1989-1990.

PD Chief Burgan attributed the increase entirely to the new law ban

ning beepers -- which are often used by drug dealers.

Greater emphasis in the past two years on reporting violations is another factor, Chief Burgan said. Outgoing superintendent Richard C. Hunter, who began his term in 1988 during a rash of well-publicized crimes, made school safety a priority.

Measures adopted after Dr. Hunter took office included a hot line to report guns in schools and a strict new dress code which prohibits many items of clothing thought to provoke crime -- such as gold, leather and fur. The dress code was adopted in 1989 and amended in 1990.

"The serious kinds of things that most concern people are either stable or dropping," said Chief Burgan. "And while there is an increase, I think at least part of the increase can be attributed to intensified reporting."

School officials attribute the 122 percent jump in reported sex offenses to a new emphasis on reporting. The push began last fall after a summer incident in which a custodian accused of fondling a 7-year-old girl was transferred to another school -- without top school administrators being informed.

After that incident, meetings were held with all school principals reminding them that it was illegal to fail to report sex offenses, Chief Burgan said.

The bulk of the sex cases involved allegations of fondling -- many of them between students, he said. The number of serious sex offenses -- rapes and attempted rapes -- was up only slightly. There were 10 such cases reported last school year, up from eight cases in each of the two previous years.

School officials take particular pride in statistics showing that 82 percent fewer guns got into the city's 180 schools than in the 1983-1984 school year, the earliest year for which statistics were available. There were 22 incidents involving guns in the schools last year -- eight assaults, three armed robberies and 11 cases of possession.

Half the incidents took place outside school buildings, and half involved non-students, said Mr. Burgan. School officials say the decline is particularly significant in light of the proliferation of guns in the city -- which last year had the highest homicide rate since 1972.

Possession, sale and distribution of drugs has declined more than 80 percent over the past 12 years, Chief Burgan said. But more of the cases involve hard-core drugs such as cocaine and heroin, he said.

Of last year's cases, 75 percent involved those drugs as compared with 25 percent of the drug cases between 1987 and 1988, Chief Burgan said. These trends mirror national patterns, which show a decline in casual drug use.

The number of disciplinary incidents -- not crimes -- requiring intervention from school police was up 12 percent from the previous school year. There were 3,500 such incidents reported in the 1990-1991 school year, compared with 3,122 the previous year. But the number represented a decline from 1988-1989, when administrators turned to school police for help in 4,299 incidents.

Crime in Baltimore's schools


Category..... ..... ..... 1990-1991... 1989-1990... 1988-1989

Incidents involving firearms......... 22.......... 28.......... 35

Sex offenses..... ..... ..... ....... 73.......... 33.......... 35

DAssault with a deadly weapon......... 57.......... 75.......... 57

DPossession of a deadly weapon........ 99.......... 72.......... 69

DRobbery..... ..... ..... ..... ...... 39.......... 30.......... 38

DDrugs....... ..... ..... ..... ...... 30.......... 35.......... 58

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