The shooting of a 14-year-old boy in front of a Union City, California middle school in 2007 demonstrates the school safety challenges from community crime that schools sometimes face. Vernon Eddins was shot in front of Barnard – White Middle School. Six men who police allege are members of a Latino youth gang were charged with the murder of 14-year-old Eddins, who was African American. Members of the community have alleged that local law enforcement officials have not done enough to protect African American students from the Latino gang.
Working as a school district police chief in a community with intensive gang activity, it is clear to me that many non-public and public schools face significant challenges in working with local law enforcement officials to try to prevent gang violence in and near schools in many communities. Our district police force went to considerable lengths to provide intensive police coverage in the 1,000 foot school safety zones designated by Georgia law. These intensive efforts dramatically reduced the threat level in these areas.
This issue is so pervasive that the School Safety Project of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency – Office of the Governor held a statewide school safety conference about ten years ago focused on prevention measures to reduce crime in school safety zones. Approximately 500 educators and law enforcement officials attended the conference demonstrating how high the level of interest was in this topic.