On April 7th, New York City’s Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Philip Banks held a Public Safety briefing at the NYC Public Schools headquarters in Lower Manhattan. Deputy Mayor Banks was joined at the briefing by NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell, New York City Public Schools Chancellor David Banks, NYPD School Safety Commanding Officer Deputy Chief Marlon Larin, and the NYC Public School’s Chief of Safety and Prevention Partnerships Mark Rampersant.
Deputy Mayor Banks led the briefing while also giving his colleagues the opportunity to address the audience. “We’re here today to talk to you about an extremely important and critical safety issue and that is school safety. At the core we are talking about the safety of our most treasured population, our children,” Banks said. The Deputy Mayor emphasized the role that parents should play with regard to their children’s well-being. He suggested paying close attention to the mental state of children and the activities that they participate in.
NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell spoke first as she shared the holistic picture of crime in New York City. Sewell mentioned how the NYPD had held its own briefing on April 6th, sharing the crime statistics for the first quarter of 2023. The statistics are encouraging as they showed that the number of crimes in five of the seven major categories had reduced. The commissioner said the crimes with high statistics are grand larcenies and felony assaults while shootings and homicides have decreased. “I think when we look at where we are and all the numbers that we were able to drive down in the last year and three months, is a true testament to the work of the women and men of the NYPD and we are going to continue to push forward to drive down those categories as well,” Sewell said.
The NYPD Commissioner went on to speak on the importance of ensuring school children feel safe so they may succeed both inside and outside their classroom. She promised that the NYPD would do its job, which is to ensure everyone including students, teachers, and parents is kept safe. The NYPD has been focused on youth crime and a way to reduce it according to Commissioner Sewell. She spoke favorably in support of city departments working together to combat the scourge of youth violence. The NYPD and New York City Public Schools carried out counter-terrorism training sessions that show how to deal with an active shooter.
Deputy Chief Larin spoke next as he gave a breakdown of the work his department does in collaboration with NYC Public Schools to provide safety for schools. “The division is staffed by just over 4,000 civilian and uniformed members of the service. We will be welcoming a new class of 118 School Safety Agents on May 1st and we anticipate another class of approximately 175 agents in April,” Larin said. Larin said that on May 3rd there would be an exam for 5,000 School Safety Agent candidates. According to Deputy Chief Larin, these applicants were recruited by active School Safety Agents who carry out community outreach work. They form part of the Outreach Unit which is made up of a combination of police officers and School Safety Agents. The Outreach Unit offers support to students and raises awareness of issues including vaping, drug use, and bullying. They also offer a variety of mentorship and training sessions that tackle social-emotional learning and conflict resolution.
Chief Larin shared how the technology provided to School Safety Agents had improved, providing means to directly call 911 without a middleman, which is how the system used to be. He also spoke of utility belts for School Safety Agents that are equipped with life-saving tools.
When asked about parent organizations, Chief Larin spoke glowingly of the NYC School Safety Coalition. “They are very active, they show up at the schools, they promote safety all around for the young people and just recently, they held their resource fair up in Harlem,” he said as he encouraged organizations to speak directly to the youth and communities when in search for solutions.
Public Schools Chancellor Banks spoke on how one of his foremost tasks as chancellor is ensuring students are safe. He also repeated how it was a task for all residents of New York to ensure there was safety. “The responsibility for the safety of our children rests with all of us. It is not just the Chancellor’s responsibility, it is not the mayor’s responsibility, it is not just the commissioner’s responsibility,” he said. He called for all stakeholders to work together and for parents to play an active role at their children’s schools. Chancellor Banks, who was once a School Safety Agent and a teacher, spoke of how he appreciated the work they do. He used the opportunity to speak about the new system, called Safer Access System, that is being introduced at public schools. “We intend to lock the front doors once our kids are in school and anybody who is coming to visit the school, will have to present themselves before entry is made. The doors will not be wide open for anyone to simply walk into,” he said. Banks further explained that implementation of the system would start in May and he hoped by spring all schools would be operating with it. According to the chancellor, school safety agents would be trained on the correct use of the system.
Mark Rampersant further explained the Safer Access System. The School Safety Agents will have the ability to control access from the main access. School Safety Agents will have access to a two-way camera and also a communication system that allows them to be in touch with the school administration. This will ensure that all people who enter school premises are the right people. In the case of a crisis, police officers will gain access to buildings with security codes provided to precincts according to Rampersant. Rampersant made it clear that while the new system would prevent the arbitrary entry of people at schools, parents would be catered to.