Frightened New York City students are taking guns, tasers and pepper spray to school, prompting a surge in weapons seizures in the nation’s largest education system as crime continues to plague the Big Apple.
Police have seized 787 weapons at city schools since July 1, an increase of 28 percent from the same time period in 2019 and 2018.
The students who were caught bringing weapons to school cited concerns over safety during their commutes as the city saw a surge in violent crime amid the pandemic.
‘What we see happening with our young people is indicative of what’s happening in the city as a whole,’ Mark Rampersant, Education Department security director, told the Daily News.
‘They don’t feel safe as they transition through multiple communities traveling to school.’
According to data from the New York Police Department, 124 city residents under the age of 18 were shot – 21 fatally – in the first 10 months of the year. The previous year, 98 minors were shot, seven fatally, during the same time period.
‘What the pandemic did is just turn up the temperature significantly; the result was just a pretty significant increase in violence,’ Elise White, a researcher at the Center for Court Innovation, said after interviewing hundreds of youths about carrying guns.
A student at Adlai Stevenson High School in the Bronx was busted with a loaded .32-caliber weapon and a bag of marijuana on Oct. 20, 2021
In one case, authorities were alerted to a 14-year-old middle school student carrying a pink pistol in a backpack.
A student at Adlai Stevenson High School in the Bronx was caught brining a .32-caliber gun to school, along with a bag of marijuana.
According to experts, the weapons surge is likely the result of the internet making guns easily accessible.
‘The internet has changed things,’ David Caba, the program director at Bronx Rises Against Gun Violence, argued. ‘You can purchase all these items online easily.’
The district has also seen a rise in the number of tasers and ‘other weapons’ brought to schools this year.
There have been 84 reports of tasers in schools, an increase from 12 a year in 2019 and 2018.
There were also 224 ‘other weapons’ – which could include tasers, pepper spray, brass knuckles and more – brought to school in 2021, compares to 52 in 2019 and 86 in 2018.
Police (pictured in 2020) have seized 787 weapons at city schools since July 1, an increase of 28 percent from the same time period in 2019 and 2018
School safety agents discovered a gun at FDR High School in Brooklyn
A Brooklyn principal, who spoke to the news outlet on the basis of anonymity, said they had to reiterated to a pair of female students that pepper spray keychains were not permitted on school grounds.
‘I was conflicted because I know this is a safety strategy. … [They’ve] never used it in school, I don’t think [they] would,’ the principal said. ‘But another student might pick it up and use it. We had to have that conversation.’
Officials also shared that several of the guns confiscated in schools this year were discovered due to reports made by concerned students.
‘A lot of times, the kids will tell the security guards stuff. In most schools, I’ve seen the relationships the security guards have with the students,’ a Bronx school social worker shared.
Other weapons were found by metal detectors.
However, despite the fact that the schools have systems in place to identify weapons, some parents are still concerned for their children’s safety.
‘Unacceptable. The school needs to have a better security system,’ Sevika Singh Dhaliwal, whose freshman daughter attends Martin Van Buren High School in Queens, said.
According to David Caba (pictured), the program director at Bronx Rises Against Gun Violence, the weapons surge is likely the result of the internet making guns easily accessible
The students who were caught bringing weapons to school cited concerns over safety during their commutes. Experts allege students ‘don’t feel safe as they transition through multiple communities traveling to school’ (Pictured: A .22-caliber pistol found in a student’s backpack at Mott Haven Educational Campus in the Bronx)
Police recently flooded Dhaliwal’s daughter’s campus after a 17-year-old brought a gun to school in his bag.
Meanwhile, the New York Department of Education claims that their ‘highest priority is keeping kids and communities safe.’
Department spokesperson Nathaniel Styer told the Daily News that through their partnership with NYPD, ‘incidents in schools are down 16% this year.’
‘Weapons have absolutely no place in our schools, and we work closely with our outstanding school safety agents and the NYPD every day to keep our schools safe by stopping dangerous items from entering our schools and ensuring the entire community is safe,’ Styer explained.
The spike in weapons at schools comes as New York City grapples with an increase in visible, violent crime, including horrific subway and street attacks that have left residents terrified.
Crime in NYC is up 1.3 percent year-to-date compared to last year. Crime in October rose 11.2 percent compared to October 2020 as the mayor talks about a return to ‘pre-pandemic levels’
According to the NYPD’s latest monthly numbers, overall crime was up 11.2 percent last month compared with October 2020. Robbery was up by 15.8 percent and felony assault rose by 13.8 percent.
There was also a drop in murders last month to 37, compared with 41 in October 2020, a minor reduction of 9.8 percent.
However, both counts are higher than the number of citywide murders in October 2019 (29) and October 2018 (18).
Last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio, who will be replaced by the newly elected Eric Adams in January, said shootings are down in Queens and Staten Island compared to last year, and emphasized the decline in shootings in Brooklyn, which are down 20 percent from last year.
There have been 445 shootings in Brooklyn so far this year, down from 557 at this point in the year in 2020 but up significantly from 248 in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Shootings, however, continue to climb in other parts of the city.