Crime up at some south Charlotte campuses

South Charlotte public schools saw an uptick in last year’s crime rates along with the rest of district, fueled in part by a jump in crime at Alexander Graham, Community House and Quail Hollow middle schools and South Mecklenburg High.

Crime statistics show that incidents increased at some area schools last year, something school leaders are looking to crack down on. Numbers were down at Carmel Middle School (above).

The recent 2011-12 Consolidated Data Report from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction showed crime and violence at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools’ south Charlotte campuses increased by 1.94 acts per 1,000 students during the 2011-12 school year. District averages show Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools reported 11.33 acts per 1,000 students in 2011-12, up slightly from 11.10 acts per 1,000 students in 2010-11.

But in south Charlotte, the average number of acts still fell far below the district average at 8.36 acts per 1,000 students in 2011-12, up from 6.42 acts per 1,000 in 2010-11.

Crime is up at Alexander Graham Middle, Ardrey Kell High, Community House Middle, Cotswold Elementary, Crestdale Middle, East Mecklenburg High, Eastover Elementary, Greenway Park Elementary, Huntingtowne Farms Elementary, McApline Elementary, McClintock Middle, Montclaire Elementary, Myers Park Traditional, Park Road Montessori, Providence Spring Elementary, Quail Hollow Middle, Rama Road Elementary, Selwyn Elementary, Sharon Elementary and South Mecklenburg High. Crime and violence is classified on school campuses under 16 different offenses, ranging from illegal possession of controlled substances or alcohol, weapons, assaults, rape and homicide.

The biggest change was in south Charlotte middle and high schools, where numbers saw a big increase. At south Charlotte middle school campuses, 14.67 violent or criminal acts were committed per 1,000 students in 2011-12, up from 13.78 crimes per 1,000 students in 2010-11. Alexander Graham, Community House, McClintock and Quail Hollow middle schools contributed most to the amount of crime, with an increase in possession of controlled substances at Alexander Graham, sexual assaults at Community House and possession of weapons at McClintock and Quail Hollow.

“I think the important thing is that a lot of people make an assumption around weapons – many people think that means guns, but we have never found a gun,” Rachel Neill, Quail Hollow principal, said, adding that some weapons found at the school include items like a syringe that was found in a student’s backpack, a Swiss Army pocket knife and a pencil eraser thrown out of the window of a moving school bus. Quail Hollow had the most criminal or violent acts out of south Charlotte’s middle schools with 30 acts. During the current academic year, the school has seen a reduction in discipline incidents of 51 percent so far, which is very substantial, Neill said.

“A big part of that has been updating our school schedule,” she said. “A lot of incidents happen when students don’t have an activity to be engaged in. We also have a new positive behavior reinforcement program.

“Also we are just continuing to be very targeted in working with our counselors and teachers and also with parents to ensure students have the support they need to be successful in both behavior and academics,” Neill said.

South Charlotte high schools averaged 22.4 crimes per 1,000 students in 2011-12, a giant leap from 2010-11 where the average stood at 10.59. At South Mecklenburg High School, 21 more violent or criminal acts were reported in 2011-12 than in 2010-11, the largest increase in south Charlotte, with 14 more acts filed under possession of a controlled substance. However, Myers Park High cut their crime from 59 acts in 2010-11 to 31 in 2011-12, the largest decrease in south Charlotte.

Officer William Sutton, South Mecklenburg High resource officer, said although the number of violent and criminal acts at the school increased from 31 to 52, numbers this school year already are coming in lower due to more initiatives by school staff to help combat drugs at the school.

“When it comes to drugs and possession and being active to deter it, it’s pretty much we have to be more alert,” Sutton said, “asking teachers to help out and of course principals can do more searches – they can search anytime they have probable reason.”

Sutton said he thinks after students realized teachers and staff at the school are serious about searches, they learned to keep the drugs off campus.

“The staff members have stepped it up and have done more searches, which unfortunately means more kids were caught with controlled substances. But so far this year, we have seen a decrease because kids know they are going to be searched,” Sutton said.

While the number of south Charlotte criminal acts increased, several local schools individually saw decreases such as Carmel Middle School, Collingswood Language Academy, Hawk Ridge Elementary, Jay M. Robinson Middle, Lansdowne Elementary, McKee Road Elementary, Myers Park High, Providence High, Randolph Middle, Smithfield Elementary and South Charlotte Middle.

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