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APS Ditches Crime Reports

By Andrea Schoellkopf
Journal Staff Writer
       How safe are Albuquerque Public Schools?
    The answer to that is anyone's guess, because the district is no longer issuing annual crime reports.
    In fact, APS stopped doing so two years ago, when the state stopped requiring the information from New Mexico school districts.
    Another reason APS compiled the crime data was because it was among the information the school board wanted then-Superintendent Elizabeth Everitt's administration to collect. Everitt was replaced by Winston Brooks in 2008.
    APS Police Chief Bill Reid said he reviews crime reports monthly, along with student discipline reports, in order to determine how many officers are assigned to particular schools. However, the data are "not very scientific."
    Two of the schools, Manzano and La Cueva, use city police and don't share their data with APS police, Reid said.
    He said he doesn't have enough money to hire an analyst or buy a software package that would help catalog the district's crime stats, which were compiled by APS Research, Development and Accountability when the data were required by the state.
    Still, if money became available, his preference would be to hire another officer.
    "We're in the best shape we've been in for the last two years, but it's still not enough," Reid said.
    He said it's hard to secure grants for the extra money because the APS Police Department is not considered a law enforcement agency. Efforts to gain the designation this year were struck down in the Legislature's Senate Judiciary Committee, he said.
    Several school board members said they would like APS to start compiling the crime data again.
    Robert Lucero said that in the past, the district used the information to show which schools needed more support and to get funding from the Legislature.
    "Our schools are a reflection of society," Lucero said. "We just need to find out what's going on in the schools all the way around."
    Until 2001, the state compiled an annual Violence and Vandalism report that documented crime reports by district. It was replaced by the Safe Schools report, which reported on crime statewide. That report has not been issued since 2007 because of inconsistent reporting by the districts.
    Federal regulations under the Gun-Free Schools Act now require states to report only "persistently dangerous schools," which New Mexico does not have, as well as any gun-related incidents, but only for the state as a whole, state spokeswoman Danielle Montoya said.
    She said a compilation report of the state-level data from 2006-2008 should be released in January.
    Even when APS was releasing its annual crime report, the data were often not reliable because some schools were better about reporting than others.
    "I was getting the impression some schools weren't reporting to make themselves look a little better," said APS board president Marty Esquivel, who recalled seeing his child's middle school having a higher number of incidents than others.
    While APS has its own police force, school principals can opt instead to use the city police or county sheriff's department as their law enforcement, which means inconsistency in what crime is reported to the district, spokesman Rigo Chavez said.
    Also, some schools are better about reporting student suspensions than others.
    Nonetheless, Esquivel believes the information is important and that the district should be compiling it.





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