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28 de June de 2018Safe Schools: eliminating crime from schools
1img - Safe Schools: eliminating crime from schools

The Safe Schools, Strong Families program will undergo an impact assessment that will gather information on whether police visits to schools and improvements to the communication channels between school administrators and police officers promote a safer school environment for students, family members and teachers.

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“Safe Schools, Strong Families” is a municipal program created in 2016 and implemented in February 2017; its purpose is to strengthen security in schools in Campo Grande, Brazil, to diminish violence and encourage good practices among students. The program was selected in the first “International CAF Call for impact assessments” as the subject of an impact assessment by a professional team of the CAF-development bank of Latin America.

To conduct its assessment, 60 public schools in Campo Grande were randomly selected, from a total of 136 eligible schools, for implementation of the “Safe Schools, Strong Families” program. The randomized selection of beneficiary schools allows the establishment of a control group (schools where the program is not implemented) that is statistically equal to the schools in which the program is implemented. In this manner, any differences found between both groups of schools, in terms of the variables being studied and once the intervention is complete, will be attributable only to the influence of the program in the schools. 

 

This program is comprised of three parts:

  1. Daily police visits inside the schools (at recess, at the start and end of school, etc), during which the officers talk with the students, teachers, and school administrators to obtain information about the school environment and any possible problems that have occurred, in order to provide the necessary support. In addition, upon request by school administrators, the police officers organize discussions with students and conduct other activities to strengthen trust between the police and the school community.

    Visits are conducted with techniques for establishing rapport, in which priority is given to observation and the exchange between police and students. For this reason, the police officers enter the schools without weapons, and the patrol cars that are used for the implementation of the program are different from those commonly used by police forces (they are small cars labeled with the name of the program and equipped with some of the devices required by these vehicles).

  2. Timely communication: consists of establishing a direct channel between the police officers and administrators, not only through the visits, but also through a WhatsApp group. This mechanism allows frequent contact to be maintained between the major players in order to reduce response times and respond in a timely manner to problems that may arise in the institutions and in its surroundings.

  3. Patrols focused in the areas surrounding the school seek to address suspicious activities and prevent possible incidents, and thereby deter criminal activity.

 

In Brazil, violence and high levels of crime have been traditionally addressed with “tough” policies. Their results, despite being positive in improving crime indicators and public safety, have been characterized as being short term, not very sustainable over time, and especially as being damaging to citizen perception of police forces and even of the State. In this sense, the Safe Schools program aims to become a more holistic policy that seeks to break with traditional police practices and address citizen security from a different approach than the one that was historically used.

The specific hope is that increased police presence and greater interaction of police officers with the school administrators will have significant impacts in decreasing the incidence of crime inside and outside of schools. The goal of the initiative is for improvements in the school environment to translate into reductions in dropout rates and absenteeism, as well as improvements in the students’ academic performance.

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