- Published on Tuesday, 09 March 1999 19:39
- Written by Linda Taaffe - Town Crier Staff Writer
Although overall crime went down last year in Los Altos area schools, a new statewide report released last month showed property crimes, such as thefts and vandalism, remained among the highest in Santa Clara County in the Los Altos and Mountain View-Los Altos Union High school districts.
According to the third annual California Safe Schools Assessment report, which includes crimes against people, property crimes, drugs and alcohol offenses and weapon possessions, the Los Altos School District reported a loss from property crimes of approximately $15,125, or $4.20 per student, for the 1997-98 school year. The high school district reported a loss of approximately $37,340, or $12.48 per student for the 1997-98 school year. The average dollar loss from property crimes in the county was reported at approximately $1.80 per student.
Those numbers are an improvement from last year's report, in which combined losses from both districts accounted for a quarter of the county theft in Santa Clara County. The Los Altos School District reported a loss of $15,785 and the high school district reported a loss of $128,700, according to last year's report.
Marge Gratiot, superintendent of the Los Altos School District, said computer theft is still a problem in the district. She said the district has added more computers to its classrooms over recent months, which could make the schools more desirable targets.
"We have implemented some new security systems and will improve them more when we improve the schools," Gratiot said.
Gratiot said the way the district reported its losses could also account for its higher-than-average property losses, since there's a variability from district to district in reporting accuracy.
School officials in the Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District say this year has been virtually crime free compared to last year.
"It's been incredibly quiet," said Hugh Riddell, vice principal of discipline at Mountain View High School. . "I'm as happy as a clam. I've been here for 18 years, and this is probably the best year we've had in terms of the quiet nature of the campus."
According to the report, battery offenses went down from 5.01 incidence per 1,000 students to 2.76; there were no reports of assault with a deadly weapon, robbery or sex offenses; and possession of weapons went down to .69 incidence per 1,000 students.
Alcohol and drug offenses went down from 11.03 incidence per 1,000 students in 1995 to 6.55 incidence last year, according to the report.
Countywide, however, alcohol and drug offenses have risen 14.2 percent over the past two years, exceeding the statewide average by 12 percent.
Riddell said there have been no reports of school property stolen this year; only one incident of graffiti; and personal theft has been limited to weekend locker break-ins.
Riddell said he believes the school's construction project has helped to keep campus crime down. He said workers are at the campus on weekends and off hours, possibly discouraging vandals and thieves.
At Los Altos High, police say their presence is working. Los Altos Police say they have responded to about 130 calls this year - mostly for traffic incidence, alarm responses and minor theft.
Brent Butler, schools resource officer with the Los Altos Police Department, said there has been no reported gang activity, smoking has not been a problem and there's been virtually no alcohol problems.
Butler said the quiet atmosphere is a positive indication that the police department's crack down on smoking and drinking is working.
"Kids come up to me and say 'I'm actually have fun at a dance without being drunk,'" Butler said.
In the Fremont Union High School District, crimes declined in six of the seven reportable categories compared to the previous year. School officials say the improved ratings are a result of their tough "zero tolerance" toward school crime.
The school crime reporting program is an attempt by the state's Department of Education to gauge school safety..
Under the program, which began in 1995, all public schools, districts and county offices are required by law to collect and report incidents of school crime as defined by the program.
A complete report of the state's 1997-98 Safe Schools data is available for viewing at: www.cde.ca.gov.