Marvin Dames, Minister of National Security. Photo: Terrel W. Carey Sr/Tribune Staff
By RICARDO WELLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
NATIONAL Security Minister Marvin Dames has lauded current school policing strategies, telling reporters yesterday that law enforcement officers on campuses are positively impacting crime trends.
Mr Dames was addressing questions from The Tribune on reports that a marine biology teacher at CV Bethel High School was injured during an altercation with two male students last week, an incident which led to the suspension of classes at that school for nearly a week.
“Law enforcement never left the school and the presence of our officers continue to positively impact our students, their safety and limits the escalation of minor matters,” the Mount Moriah MP said on the sidelines on an honour roll ceremony at his alma mater, Government High School.
When asked directly if the reported incident at C V Bethel should result in more stringent policies and protocols at certain secondary schools moving forward, Mr Dames said there was no need for panic or over-reaction, stressing the country’s school system is “as safe as it has ever been”.
“I saw the reports on social media, I don’t know if that was the full scope of what happened. But, to your question, law enforcement never left the school. You see the presence of law enforcement here at GHS.
“This is working,” he said. “Our strategies and our policies are working and we continue to improve on them. Look around you, I mean every time there is a situation you find yourself in a position where you would need to review your strategies and policies, and we intend to do that here. But there is no need for mass panic and fear.
“Do we need to do somethings differently, we’ll have to decide that moving forward, but as far as we are aware, we continue to, through the police force, create a presence that is seen and felt throughout the country – not just schools.
“What you can expect moving forward too is a greater presence as we continue to ramp up, in terms of recruitment, as we continue to adjust our strategies moving forward.”
Mr Dames continued: “That’s what we promised as a government moving in, and we are living up to that promise day in and day out. If you can recall, since we came to office, there have been less reported incidents of crime around our schools.
“That is a result of improved strategies by the police.”
Mr Dames said the Ministry of National Security is preparing to better engage members of the public, aiming primarily at establishing a “workable and respected” presence in crime heavy communities through organisations like the National Neighbourhood Watch Council.
“We are building on what we have and finding new ways to address crime at all levels,” he said, “but key in that fight is ensuring that are communities are safe and our children protected.”
School-based policing was first introduced in 2002 by the first Christie administration and re-implemented in 2012 during the second Christie term.
When implemented in 2012, it was explained an inspector will have direct responsibility for the assignment of officers within each division.
The school-based police officer would have a reporting relationship with the inspector of his division and the principal of the relevant school.
Last August, Mr Dames touted his version of the initiative ahead of start of the 2018-2019 academic year, calling for officers to be stationed at schools and an increased police presence in and around school zones.
“We hope to enhance the initiatives that were in place,” Mr Dames told reporters outside of Cabinet at the time.
“We’ll do that through increased visibility, more use of resources, greater presence within the school zones from officers on foot patrols to traffic officers.”
The last major incident occurring on a school campus was the 2017 non-fatal stabbing of male student of Government High School.