The number of New York City school safety agents has plummeted nearly 25% from pre-pandemic levels — all while violence at or near school buildings is exploding, according to a report released Tuesday.
As of last month, there were 3,900 active NYPD school safety agents, nearly 1,200 — or 24% — fewer than in February 2020, just before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the city’s Independent Budget Office found.
The IBO’s report came as two teenage boys were shot and injured within three hours of each other near their respective high schools in Upper Manhattan on Tuesday.
Three students have been slain so far in the 2022-23 school year, and at least 20 have been either stabbed or shot, The Post reported last month.
“We warned the city two years ago. Only more school safety agents can protect our city and our schools,” said Hank Sheinkopf, spokesman for Teamster Local 237, the union which represents school safety agents.
“How many more young people will be shot, or stabbed before politicians understand what so many New York City mothers know: we need more school safety agents.”
Sheinkopf said the force stood 5,500 strong in 2019 but that, “We’re now at 4,000 on a good day.”
School safety agents are civilians who don’t carry weapons but are employed by the NYPD.
Under a 2019 agreement between the city Department of Education and the NYPD, SSAs employ a more restrained approach, such as not intervening in most low-level misconduct by students, using alternative responses to issuing arrests or summonses and employing the minimal amount of physical restraints necessary.
But there’s been a political tug-of-war in recent years over their presence in schools.
During Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration, there was a push to remove the NYPD from employing and assigning safety agents.
Lefty progressives argued that schools were being over-policed and that the responsibility should fall under the DOE.
Mayor Eric Adams, however, decided that school safety and staffing should remain in the hands of NYPD.
Still, a total of 832 vacant school safety positions were scrapped over the past year, the IBO report said.
Sheinkopf said the City Council also canceled two 250-person classes of school safety agents.
“The decision to eliminate nearly 300 vacant school safety agent positions, bringing the total cut to over 800 since last February, is a terrible idea, especially in light of recent incidents at our schools, and that many of my schools only have one agent,” said Queens Councilman Robert Holden, a member of the public safety committee.
“While budget constraints are understandable, reducing the number of agents and compromising the safety of our children is not the solution,” added Holden.
Last month, the NYPD beefed up the number of its separate youth coordination officer units at schools in light of an increase in shootings.
The first cut of vacant SSA positions came in the mayor’s preliminary Budget in February 2022, when 550 open slots were scrapped, saving between $35 million and $37 million per year, and bringing the school safety staffing budget for fiscal year 2023 down to $389 million.
Next, Adams’s November 2022 budget slashed another $24 million for the remainder of the current fiscal year, and another $13 million in fiscal year 2024, reflecting lower recruitment and higher attrition than projected, the IBO report states.
In January, the mayor’s budget plan eliminated 282 more vacant school safety agent positions to reduce spending by $10 million to $21 million per year, bringing the current
year’s budget to $356 million.
Spending on school safety agents is budgeted to increase to $367 million by the end of the four-year financial plan in 2027, well below the budgeted level of $427 million in 2021, and short of the actual $395 million of spending in 2019 and 2020.
City Hall said the NYPD currently has 4,100 SSAs and that an additional 250 trainees are slated to start in April.
“The safety of our students will always be a top priority for this administration,” a City Hall spokesperson said in a statement.
“As with any agency, we will work with them to evaluate their needs through the budget process once they fill all budgeted positions, but, in the meantime, we will continue to build on the productive steps we have taken thus far and invest in a holistic vision of public safety that keeps our youngest safe.”
The NYPD had no immediate comment.
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