The cuts in security staff last year led to a 41-percent increase in violence, vandalism, and weapons incidents at city schools in 2016-17, according to a report presented to the school board late last month.
Numbers of incidents jumped to 144 from 102 the previous year, according to the report. All three categories saw increases. Incidents of violence climbed to 98 from 75; incidents of vandalism jumped from 17 to 26; and weapons incidents doubled from 10 to 20, according to the statistics.
“I attribute that to less security at the buildings,” said James Smith, head of security at the Paterson Public Schools, to the school board in late August. The district was forced to reduce security at the district by 31-percent last September due to financial problems.
86 security staff were cut and later 11 were restored. Smith at the time described the cuts as “extremely dangerous.”
This year, acting superintendent Eileen Shafer has added 23 contracted security personnel, according to Smith.
Smith is hoping the situation will be more manageable with the increase in security staff. Despite the spike in 2016-17 school year, the number of incidents remain low from past years. For example, the school district in 2000-01 and 2001-02 had more than 400 incidents of violence, vandalism, and weapons.
Those numbers abated reaching a low of 84 in 2013-14, according to district data.