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High-Tech Plan Targets Crime Near Two Schools

Villaraigosa says police, teachers and parents will brainstorm over computer findings.

September 21, 2006|Patrick McGreevy | Times Staff Writer

Enlisting cutting-edge technology to reduce violence near Los Angeles high schools, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced plans Wednesday to bring together parents, teachers and neighbors for computer-aided brainstorming sessions to identify crime problems near the campuses and find solutions.

The Community CompStat program is a variation of the Los Angeles Police Department's long-standing use of computers to map where crimes are occurring by type of offense. The technique allows officers to discuss the findings and develop strategies for problem locations. The police program has been credited with helping reduce crime in the city by 40% during the last four years.

The new program, which kicks off in November at Fremont High in South Los Angeles and Crenshaw High in the Crenshaw district before being rolled out to other schools, extends participation to parents, teachers, school administrators and those who live near or work close to schools, the mayor said.

"We are going to focus around schools, create partnerships, get new ideas and really involve you in a way that's going to make a difference," Villaraigosa told parents, teachers and residents at a news conference at Fremont.

"Working in a partnership with the school district and the community, we're going to reduce crime around schools and make it safer for kids to come to and from schools," he said.

CompStat, which is short for "computerized statistics," was developed by a group of policing experts, including William J. Bratton when he was head of the New York Police Department. He brought CompStat to Los Angeles when he became chief of the LAPD.

New York City has incorporated some CompStat features, including a focus on crime hot spots, into an Impact Schools initiative to concentrate additional police on those 24 schools and surrounding neighborhoods that suffer from a disproportionate amount of crime.

Villaraigosa went to New York in April to learn about that city's program, and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg attended Wednesday's announcement in Los Angeles, saying that the effort has cut crime around schools in his city. Over the last three years, violent crime in and around the schools targeted in New York has dropped 53%, and school test scores are improving.

"Establishing a safe and secure environment for learning, as you are prepared to do here at Fremont High School, really has been essential for the progress we have achieved," Bloomberg said. "Teachers can't teach and students can't learn in schools that aren't safe."

Bratton said at the news conference that the program would bring police administrators together in one room on a regular basis with members of community policing advisory boards, neighborhood councils, elected officials, clergy, principals, teachers, parents and students. Bratton will lead the forums.

"I know from experience that CompStat works by helping us focus our limited resources on the most pressing problems," Bratton said. "Ensuring student safety to and from school and while on campus allows the children to focus on their learning."

Fremont and Crenshaw are in neighborhoods that have endured crime.

A sweep in May led to the arrest of six people in the neighborhood around Crenshaw High School, including a registered sex offender, on suspicion of probation violations and other charges.

In March, extra security was brought in to quell fighting between Latino and African American students at Fremont High. In 2004, a 14-year-old Fremont student was shot to death while riding his bicycle near his home.

The initiative was welcomed by Roy Romer, superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, and school board President Marlene Canter.

Both have clashed with Villaraigosa in recent months over his successful effort to gain some power over schools.

But on Wednesday, district officials said they were enthusiastic partners in the school safety program.

"Keeping the community surrounding our schools safe is as important as academics," Canter said.

Villaraigosa downplayed the dispute over his increased role in the school district, giving Canter a hug at one point.

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