Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Youth crime stats linked to lack of school resource officer

By DOUG CARDER, Herald Senior Writer | 4/10/2013

Juvenile drug arrests totaled four in February — almost equaling the number for all of 2012, according to Ottawa police reports.

Dennis Butler, Ottawa police chief, shared those statistics with Ottawa city commissioners Monday in response to previous comments by Jeff Richards, city commissioner, who noted the rise in juvenile drug arrests at a recent study session. Richards was sworn in Wednesday morning as Franklin County’s new sheriff. Richards said he plans to resign his seat on the city commission.

Juvenile drug arrests totaled four in February — almost equaling the number for all of 2012, according to Ottawa police reports.

Dennis Butler, Ottawa police chief, shared those statistics with Ottawa city commissioners Monday in response to previous comments by Jeff Richards, city commissioner, who noted the rise in juvenile drug arrests at a recent study session. Richards was sworn in Wednesday morning as Franklin County’s new sheriff. Richards said he plans to resign his seat on the city commission.

The police department recorded five juvenile drug arrests last year and four in 2011, according to the department’s annual reports.

“One could argue that there are fewer arrests in 2011-2012 because there was no SRO [school resource officer] in OHS,” Butler said. “These numbers are so low that statistically it is difficult to point to a specific issue, trend or resource to explain the four arrests during the month of February this year.

“Much manual research would be needed to determine the details or circumstances for each juvenile drug arrest; including the location of the offenses,” the police chief said.

Juvenile drug arrests totaled as many as 17 in 2005 when a school resource officer was on duty. Here are the annual juvenile drug arrest totals for 2003 through 2010 when a school resource officer was present in the district, according to annual police reports.

• 2003, 6.

• 2004, 14.

• 2005, 17.

• 2006, 2.

• 2007, 14.

• 2008, 8.

• 2009, 12.

• 2010, 14.

Representatives from the police department and school district said they would like to reinstate the SRO position in the future when funding becomes available. But those dollars do not appear easy to come by, officials said.

An agreement between the city and school district had been in place for numerous years, Butler said, in which the school district paid 75 percent of the cost of the school resource officer, with the police department funding the other 25 percent. The cost of the position, Butler said, would vary depending on the experience of the officer. A tenured officer with a number of years of experience would cost more than an officer who was relatively new to the police force, he said.When the economy took a turn for the worse in 2008, Butler said, the school district informed the city it would no longer be able to fund its portion of the SRO position.

The police department was successful in obtaining a two-year grant through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that funded the position through June 30, 2011, Butler said. The police department applied for another grant through a different source in anticipation of the two-year grant expiring, but it was unsuccessful in obtaining those funds, the chief said.

“The school district has not been in a good position to fund the SRO because of cuts in state funding and the unpredictability of state funding,” Butler said. “So, I can certainly understand their position.”

Brian Kraus, interim superintendent of schools, said the school district would not receive additional state funding in the coming school year.

“If we funded the SRO position, we would have to cut something else,” Kraus said. “But it is something we reconsider each year.”

Thus far, Kraus said, funding has not been available to reinstate the position.

Rick Howard, Franklin County commissioner and former school resource officer for 11 years, said having an SRO is beneficial on several levels.

“It’s not only good for providing security at the school, it’s also a link between the school, the kids and the police department,” Howard said. “It’s a chance for the kids to get to know a police officer and talk with them about their problems. I hated to see it end. It’s very beneficial to the school district and police department.”

Kraus and Butler expressed hope that a funding solution could be found.

“There are so many benefits to having an SRO to us and to the school district,” Butler said. “The city and school district are both willing to continue discussions [to look for ways to fund the SRO] each year because it is important.”

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