Amid shootings at East High School, data shows sharp decline in crimes in Denver public high schools reported to police
Despite the recent tragic crimes at East High School, crimes reported to Denver Police are down significantly at the school in comparison to pre-pandemic years. That's also the case for almost all of the public high schools in Denver.
In 2018, Denver Police data shows nearly 900 crimes at high schools in the Denver Public Schools umbrella were reported to police. But in 2022, there were only 542 criminal offenses that were reported to Denver Police -- that's about a 40% decrease.
At East High School, according to Denver Police data CBS News Colorado obtained through an open records request, in 2018, 46 criminal incidents at East were reported to Denver Police, but in 2022 -- the first full year that students were back in the classroom, and the first full year without school resource officers -- only eight crimes were reported to police.
While overall crimes are down, the data shows some gun-related crimes in Denver high schools are up. In 2018, only 9 aggravated assaults with a firearm at DPS high schools that were reported to police, but in 2022, there were 14.
DPS says it has made comprehensive investments in more mental health resources for students that helped contribute to the overall decline, but others are skeptical that big drop doesn't necessarily mean that crimes weren't still happening.
"I think there's a lot of evidence that suggests that there were more incidents in schools in general coming back from the pandemic than prior to the pandemic, and so, if the most serious offenses were not referred to law enforcement, then what was going on? What were the interventions?" said Van Schoales, Senior Policy Director with the Keystone Policy Center. "Do we have evidence that Denver security was addressing those and how are those being addressed?"
Schoales also pointed to state education data, which shows Denver Public Schools' overall referrals to police are down, too.
"Pre-pandemic, there were between 650 and about 750 referrals annually from Denver Public Schools to law enforcement, but in this last year, for the 2020-2122 school year, not this current school year, but the year before, the numbers were only 125 referrals, which means that there was roughly about an 80% drop in referrals... 80% is huge, you don't see those numbers often," Schoales said. "So, it's possible that the school district has done some remarkable work in reducing referrals to police, which could be a really good thing for kids and safety, or it could be that this information may not be representative of what reality is."
Some say it's a good thing that police are getting involved with students less often, that the reason behind removing school resource officers in the first place in 2021 was to reduce the school-to-prison pipeline.
DPS Superintendent Alex Marrero says the drop showcases the school system's work on that front.
"I am not skeptical at all in terms of the data, we have looked at it, and I think that's intentional, that's how our campus safety officers engage, and also it's in response to executive limitations and also honors the ends policy of the board," Marrero said. "It's intentional by design."
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