The SRO program serves a student population of approximately 42,000 students in Oxnard’s four public school districts. The Police Department has one SRO assigned to each of Oxnard Union High School District’s (OUHSD) four public high schools. These four SRO’s are allocated full-time to their respective high schools. Two SRO’s provide service to the Oxnard School District (OSD), and the third SRO splits their time between Hueneme School District and selected schools from the Rio School District. SRO’s are assigned to schools on a long-term basis to provide enhanced services. The SRO’s also handle police service calls on and around school campuses, providing relief to patrol services.
SRO’s assist school administrators in helping maintain a safe campus environment that is conducive to learning. SRO’s provide a visible presence to deter or identify trespassers on campus. School officials rely on the SRO’s training, knowledge and experience in handling situations involving weapons violations, or in the identification of controlled dangerous substances. In addition, SRO’s provide a service to the surrounding community by addressing concerns such as loitering, speeding or other traffic issues related to a school.
SRO’s when dealing with petty criminal activity, utilize juvenile diversion programs as an alternative to the minor entering formal juvenile justice system, which would occur if a formal arrest had been made. Minors with or without a record of a prior referral and who are suspected of less-serious offenses may qualify for the diversion process.
By providing on-going positive contact between officers and students, the SRO program seeks to bridge the gap between police officers and Oxnard youth. The collaboration between schools and the police bring together resources for students not available when the two entities work separately.
In 2016, the seven SRO’s handled:
- Approximately 2000 calls for service related to school campuses
- Approximately 300 citation and arrests
- Over, 2000 parents and students were counseled by the SRO’s
- Approximately 200 presentations
- Approximately 47 lock down drills
- Over 200 School Attendance Review Boards
- Approximately 300 crime, arrest and incident reports
- The SRO’s provided a safe learning environment for approximately 42,000 students in the four school districts within Oxnard
The following information details several essential functions performed by the SRO Unit on a daily and on-going basis-
- Ensuring that all students, staff and campuses are safe.
- Serving as a liaison between schools and the Police Department.
- Bridging the gap between law enforcement and youth.
- Deterring students from joining gangs, or making choices that lead to problems with drugs and/or alcohol.
- Handling criminal investigations that occur on campus. Often times, students report crimes to SRO’s that occurred off school grounds, e.g., child abuse, domestic violence, thefts, threats, vandalism, drug and alcohol offenses, etc. SRO’s routinely handle all aspects of the investigation which include, interviews, collection of evidence, follow up, arrest of suspect(s), report preparation, court testimony, and victim counseling.
- Ensuring that the educational process is not affected by outside disturbances. Examples of this are when crimes such as homicides, assaults, robberies or gang activity occur in neighborhoods surrounding schools, SRO’s work with other police units and school administrators to remedy these issues so that students are not exposed to it.
- Enforcing criminal violations when necessary and appropriate. SRO’s use arrest/cites as a last resort. The majority of behavioral/disciplinary matters are handled by school officials. SRO’s may be consulted, and provide input on discipline matters, but the schools decide on the discipline.
- Working with school officials to ensure that their school safety plans are in place and that they suit the needs of the particular school. This includes lock down drills, evacuation procedures, and natural disaster planning.
- Participating in the School Attendance and Review Board (SARB) process. This includes participating in hearings, working with families to find solutions to the truancy issues.
- Providing presentations to parents, students, and teacher on a variety of topics, including bullying, cyber bullying, and drugs/alcohol. Of note, SRO’s lead the Every 15 Minutes program, Youth Academy, and The Parent Project.
- SRO’s are also involved in coaching youth sports to Oxnard students, coaching football, basketball, volleyball and tennis teams.
The SRO’s are involved in a number of programs that revolve around youth. A few of the highlights are described below-
Every 15 Minutes
The SRO’s with the assistance of the Traffic Unit, Fire Department, AMR (paramedics), local tow companies and with the help of several Oxnard businesses, put on the Every 15 Minutes program, which gets its name from the fact that every 15 minutes someone dies from an alcohol related collision. It is a two day anti drinking and driving program that annually rotates from high school to high school. This year the event was held at Channel Islands High School.
The Youth Academy is a high school class facilitated by the SRO program. Guest speakers include patrol officers, detectives, crime scene investigators, a deputy district attorney, and other adults interested in the positive development of youth. The Youth Academy also includes a visit to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and the Museum of Tolerance. Two Youth Academies are held per school year and it is open to students from all Oxnard Union High School campuses.
The Parent Project
The Parent Project is a parenting class for parents of out of control or strong willed children. The program consist of ten, three hour classes that help parents deal with alcohol and drug use, teen sex, truancy, run away, defiance, and more. The Parent Project teaches that consistent consequences, good or bad, help the child make his or her own choice to grow and change.
The Parent Project is currently taught in conjunction with the Oxnard Union High School District. Currently three SRO’s are trained as instructors.
Heroes and Helpers (formerly Shop with a Cop)-The SRO program has spearheaded this event for the last several years. This year’s event was one of the most successful years because of the donations the event received. The additional donations allowed the event to invite over 30 students from Oxnard schools. Over 70 police department employees (sworn/civilian) participated in this year’s event.
Crime Stoppers – The SRO Unit continues to maintain a strong working relationship with the Scholastic Crime Stoppers program. SRO McCready is the police department’s liaison. She attends monthly meetings with the Crime Stoppers board interacting with other agency liaisons including Seniors, Sergeants and Commanders and is responsible for handling reward funds distributed to students and accounting back to the board about rewards paid.
Youth Bike Safety Training –In 2016, the SRO Unit began to offer youth bike safety classes to students enrolled in after school programs. The goal is to offer 12-15 classes per year and to provide properly sized helmets to all of the participants. The bike safety classes are being supported by the Office of Traffic Safety, Selective Traffic Enforcement Program (S.T.E.P) grant. The goal for 2017 is to offer these classes to a variety of youth groups throughout the city.
Boys’ Group – For about 3 years, Officer Mora through his “Boys’ Group” has worked with youth who display at-risk behavior and/or have been identified by school administration as having a history of school discipline issues. Officer Mora engages the students in discussions about such topics as juvenile laws, alcohol and other drugs, gangs, youth peer-pressure, bullying, etc.
Officer Thompson also facilitates Boys’ Groups with students at Rio Vista JHS and E.O. Green JHS. The goal of Boys’ Group is to stimulate discussion about how the boys treat others (other students, teachers, friends, and family), encourage, instill and reinforce positive character traits, and develop school ambassadors who can begin to make positive changes to the climate on campus.
The Oxnard Police Activities League (PAL) is a city-wide, after-school crime prevention program designed to build positive relationships between youth, police officers and the community. Recreational, educational, enrichment and mentoring programs are offered to youth ages 7 to 18.
The objectives of Oxnard PAL are:
- To provide youth an opportunity to grow under the sustained guidance of dedicated adults
- To instill in youth a respect and understanding for law enforcement and for the laws they uphold
- To assist youth in developing self-esteem and provide them with skills to help them stay in school
- To involve police, parents and community volunteers in a personal commitment of time and energy to the youth of the community
SRO’s have been involved with PAL since the programs existence. Year after year, SRO’s help facilitate youth programs that are run out of PAL. SRO’s are regularly involved in coaching PAL sports teams. This last year SRO’s facilitated two, week long basketball camps, coached three separate PAL basketball teams for the summer basketball league, coached a volleyball team, and assisted in the boxing gym.
SRO’s helped serve food at PAL’s annual thanksgiving dinner and participated in several PAL holiday events.
One of the greatest challenges that the SRO’s faced in 2016 was with students who were struggling with mental health issues. SRO’s worked with several youth that were experiencing minor mental health problems to severe mental health problems. Depending on the severity of the mental health issue, SRO’s will deal with the situation informally with school staff and parents but on the more severe cases where students attempted suicide or are contemplating suicide, SRO’s will reach out to mental health professionals from the school districts and from the County.
The SRO Unit partnered with the Children Intensive Response Team (CIRT) but the Unit closed its doors. This caused a gap with mental health services that the SRO Unit utilized regularly. Recently a new facility opened in Oxnard that is related to CIRT that will help close the mental health services gap.
The SRO Unit has a number of goals that it has been focusing on for 2017. The following are some of the highlights-
- Continue to develop the partnership with local mental health professionals from the schools districts and the county. The goal is to utilize mental health professionals effectively with the hopes that a program can be developed that will allow students who suffer from mental health problems to excel in a normal school setting. What is being recommended to mental health professionals is for them to take a proactive approach versus a reactive one and to follow up with students who are known to suffer from mental health problems.
- Gang prevention for our youth is always a hot topic. New and fresh ideas are needed so that we can reach our at risk youth more effectively. The City Recreation Department has developed new programs that were created to help address youth involvement in gangs. The SRO Unit is on board with these programs and plans to promote these beneficial programs on school campuses.