Approximately 275 police incidents were documented on Riverhead Central School District property in the 2018-19 academic year, according to district officials.
However, the number of police incidents does not signify the number of criminal acts that have taken place on school grounds, school resource officer Byron Perez said during a presentation last Tuesday. Not all incidents are criminal in nature, he said.
“These [include] special assignments when we have to come to the school, this includes traffic stops that happen around the schools,” he said.
The presentation showed the high school had 201 reported police incidents, 16 of which were considered offenses. The middle school had 33 incidents, Pulaski Street School had 21 incidents and Roanoke Avenue, Aquebogue, and Riley Avenue Elementary Schools all had 10 incidents each. Mr. Perez did not clarify if any of those incidents were considered offenses.
A Freedom of Information Act request submitted by the Riverhead News-Review found 180 police incidents were reported throughout the 2017-2018 academic year in the high school.
Director of security Terry Culhane said most of this year’s incidents are related to recovered property. Once an item is turned over to the police for proper disposal, it generates an incident number, he said.
“Earlier in the year … we recovered a tremendous amount of vaping material,” Mr. Culhane said. “That number has dramatically decreased since the end of the year.” Mr. Perez, who joined the district as an SRO this academic year, also provided information about the role of an SRO and the program.
He said he tries to visit all schools in the district at least once a week, except Phillips Avenue Elementary School, which is in the jurisdiction of the Southampton Town Police Department.
In addition to patrolling the schools, the SRO notifies administrators and security of police incidents that could affect safety in the schools. Throughout the year, the SRO has increased interaction and communication with law enforcement, helped the school respond to incidents faster, and made students, parents, staff and community residents feel safer.
“The SRO is a bridge for the community, and bridges the gap between law enforcement and young adults,” Mr. Perez said.
SECURITY SURVEY RESULTS
A survey conducted by the district revealed a majority of community members who took the poll are pleased with the district’s school security procedures and protocols.
District officials released the results of a public safety and security-related survey distributed online via the district website in March. The deadline to complete the survey, offered in English and Spanish, was April 1.
The 13-question survey was taken by 756 participants. About half of voters were parents in the district. Riverhead staff made up about 21% of respondents, roughly 17% of voters were community residents and 10% of voters were students.
The results were presented Tuesday by Superintendent Aurelia Henriquez and Deputy Superintendent Sam Schneider before presentations from Mr. Perez and Mr. Culhane.
In the poll, 44% of voters said that they “somewhat agree” that students feel safe at school. Almost a quarter of voters said they “somewhat disagree.”
One question stated, “The district communicates safety concerns with the community in a clear and timely manner.” Roughly 63% of voters either agreed or strongly agreed with that statement. The other roughly 37% disagreed or strongly disagreed.
Participants were given the option to leave feedback after completing the survey. Concerns ranged from the need to educate students on lockdown procedures to sensitivity training for guards to concerns about vaping, drugs and gangs.
“As you hear from us all the time, safety is our top priority,” Dr. Henriquez said.
The district has implemented educational programs like Parent University, Sandy Hook Promise, See Something, Say Something and mentoring program Young and On The Rise to address security concerns. The district has continued to partner with Riverhead Community Awareness Program and recently North Fork Coalition, Dr. Henriquez said.
Former board member Kathy Berezny said she was disappointed that more people did not respond to the survey.
“If there’s 5,500 children in the school district, then only 15% of the people responded,” she said. “I think that the school board, or the superintendent or the office, needs to do a better job getting this out, at least to all the students in the school.”
Mr. Culhane highlighted this year’s updates on security enhancements completed at the district and presented the plans for the next school year.
Modifications include teller-style windows at Roanoke Elementary School and the high school, high security fencing, evacuation plans for certain schools, usage of the RAVE app, an upgraded security camera system and security vehicles.
Looking forward, the Office of Security aims to improve emergency action plans, implement security guards, create a website strictly for district security and continue to work with local law enforcement agencies.
Photo caption: School resource officer Byron Perez speaks during the presentation. (Credit: Kate Nalepinski)