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Jan 28, 1999

Police find weapons at primary schools

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Parents are being advised to check their children’s school bags before they go off to school. Not to see if they have done their homework, but to see whether they are carrying weapons. That’s right, police have discovered that some boys and girls are not only carrying books in their back packs but deadly items such as knives. The finding has prompted police to carry out searches inside the classrooms. The effort, which is part of the two year old Zone Beat Liaison Officer’s Community Programme, is being carried out at the request of principals at primary and secondary schools to protect the children from harm.

The searches began after an incident in which a youth was cut with a pint bottle during a fight. While such a violent incident within a school compound is rare, the police say they are becoming increasingly concerned about the way students have chosen to defend themselves from attacks outside of the school.

Sgt. Gilbert Pitts, Leader, ZBLO

“Most of the kids explain that they have been jacked before and kids from other schools want to pick fights with them and this is a form of self defense.”

P.C. Fitzroy Yearwood, Member, ZBLO

“This knife was found on a female student and she tried to hide it when we got to school, but like I said she carries it as a means of self defense because of some old misunderstanding with somebody.”

Sgt. Gilbert Pitts, who heads the ZBLO program, says they have been surprised at the types of items they have recovered, even at primary schools.

Sgt. Gilbert Pitts

“This is mace; we found these. Now this is used mostly by the postal people for dogs and stuff like that but it also can be sprayed in the eyes and cause permanent damage. This is a dagger and this can kill you instantly. And we also found toy guns that are used as imitation but it looks like a real weapon and if you don’t know what it is, as a matter of fact, people use this to hold up and do all sorts of jobs with this.”

Pitts says they have been getting calls from concerned parents who disapprove of the searches being conducted. But Pitts assures parents that their children are not being harassed and the activity is being carried out in the best interest of the students.

Sgt. Gilbert Pitts

“When we go into a class, we introduce ourselves and then we ask everyone in the class if they have anything to declare because we will do a search and if they have something like knives, declare it. And some kids would come up and give us forks and knives, whatever the case may be, and then we continue our search and there we find some of the stuff that I have displayed to you at this time.”

Bridget Wilson, Principal, St. Joseph School

“Well I am very much concerned because children bringing weapon to school especially to fight the gang boys or the boys out there who are trying to attack them, it can be very dangerous to their own selves because these boys can take away the weapons from them and hurt them with it.”

Pitts says although it is an offence for students to carry such items to school, the youths are not arrested or charged but instead they become part of a first offenders program that does not go through the judicial system.

Sgt. Gilbert Pitts

“If a child commits a crime that is not too extreme what we actually do is make up the file and everything on the child but it does not go through the judicial system, instead we use the parents. We talk with the parents and the principal and we implement the punishment through the school.”

Some school principals we spoke with, say they do not disapprove of the searches but are more concerned about what would happen if a student, who is armed, is attacked. The principals believe the children are being influenced by what they see on the television.

Vetaline Thompson, All Saints School

“Yes, I am really surprised but I feel like children see these things on TV, what is happening, and they create something like that for themselves to say well, I will keep myself safe by having a weapon, I can protect myself but that is not the way.”

Police Constable Gayle Gibson advises parents to speak with their children and to be aware of what they are taking to school.

W.P.C. Gayle Gibson, Member, ZBLO

“Communicate with their children more often, check

their children school bags on a daily basis to see what kind of problems the students are facing out there. And I think that will reduce the crime rate and will make life much easier for them.”

If any schools would like assistance from the police in the form of searches they can contact Sergeant Gilbert Pitts at the Raccoon Street Station. The Zone Beat Liaison Officers will also take groups of students to the Hattieville Prison so they can see the conditions behind bars as a way of convincing them not to become involved in illegal activities. Today students of Gwen Lizarraga High School were taken on one of these tours.

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