Local schools get mixed news on past year’s crime

While overall crime averages in Matthews and Mint Hill public schools saw no change last year, local middle schools saw an increase in crime, but the local high school average decreased.

The exception is Independence High School, which saw a significant increase in reported crimes, largely possession of drugs on campus.

The recent 2011-12 Consolidated Data Report from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction showed crime and violence at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools’ Matthews and Mint Hill campuses stayed relatively unchanged from 2010-11 to 2011-12 with about 8.9 acts of crime or violence per 1,000 students.

Crime and violence is classified on school campuses under 16 different categories, ranging from illegal possession of drugs or alcohol to weapons, assaults, rape and homicide.

According to information provided by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, district averages show Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools reported 11.33 acts per 1,000 students in 2011-12, up slightly from 11.10 acts per 1,000 students in 2010-11.

But in Matthews and Mint Hill, the average number of acts in middle schools and high schools saw significant changes in the average amount of crimes per 1,000 students. Coming in at 14.87 acts per 1,000 students in 2011-12, local middle schools saw a jump in crime, with a 2010-11 average of 12.1 violent or criminal acts per 1,000 students. Crestdale Middle, Mint Hill Middle and Northeast Middle schools all saw increases in crime in 2011-12. Northeast had the largest amount of crime at 19.88 acts per 1,000 students, or 16 acts, although the school had the same number of criminal or violent acts in 2010-11.

Butler, Rocky River and Providence high schools showed decreased crime rates, while Independence saw a jump from 30 acts of crime and violence in 2010-11 to 45 acts in 2011-12. Thirty-two of last year’s 45 cases were filed under possession of a controlled substance, according to state records.

In an email to Matthews-Mint Hill Weekly, Independence Principal Amy Dellinger said she sees the cause of the increase as a sign of staff at the school being more intentional about keeping the learning environment safe.

“I have asked our administrative team to be very intentional in protecting the safety of our students in the school by removing any and all disruptions to the learning environment,” she said in the email. “Administration, faculty and staff are actively supervising students during all transitions, lunches and during dismissal. Our students are held accountable for their actions.”

Dellinger said the school’s Resource Officer Fred Allen and security associates also do a great job in establishing rapport with the students, and help promote the school’s Crime Stoppers program that provides a confidential way for students to report crime on campus.

Other schools that saw increases in crime and violence were Bain, Clear Creek and Crown Point elementary schools. Clear Creek saw the biggest increase of Matthews-Mint Hill elementary schools with 17.05 acts of crime and violence per 1,000 students, or 12 acts in 2011-12. Eight of the school’s 12 acts were reported as sexual assault. The sexual assault category can include anything from inappropriate contact to other sexual acts, excluding the act of sex.

At Rocky River High School, Principal Brandy Nelson said she believes the Mint Hill school’s decrease in crime is partially due to the school finding its identity since the campus first opened for the 2010-11 school year, pulling students from other area high schools.

Rocky River had 35 acts of crime and violence in 2010-11, and 24 acts in 2011-12.

“I think the first year of everything is about setting norms,” Nelson, who came to Rocky River as principal in February 2012, said. “The first year it was the blending of different schools and blending of different kids — the school was still learning how to be Rocky River.”

Nelson said when she came to Rocky River last year, she was sure to remind students of the school’s code of conduct and encouraged teachers and staff members to help remind students, too.

So far this year, Nelson said the number of incidents has decreased with the addition of a second school resource officer. Mint Hill Police added Officer Kristin Tolman to work in the school, joining Officer John Hathcock who has worked at the school since it opened. Tolman splits her time between Rocky River and Bain Elementary.

“I definitely think we are decreasing. Each year, we’re getting more and more positive feedback and press about all the cool things that are happening here,” Nelson said. “I think our kids and our teachers and staff members have taken a lot of pride in the school. I expect to see that improve. I think Rocky River is a school on the rise.”

Matthews and Mint Hill charter schools, Queen’s Grant Community School, Queen’s Grant High School and Socrates Academy, each reported zero acts of crime and violence last school year. In the report, Queen’s Grant High School statistics are combined with Queen’s Grant Community School.

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