DURHAM, NC (WNCN) – School Resource Officers (SROs) protect our children when fights and other violent situations arise at school, and Durham Public Schools face a shortage of them as the he school year is about to begin.
School starts Monday for DPS pupils, and County Durham Sheriff Clarence Birkhead said nine of the 29 SRO positions allocated for the district were vacant. This means that he still has to fill 30% of his SRO positions.
Birkhead said the school system is still actively recruiting to fill these vacancies. However, he said he intends to rotate his current SROs at different schools to ensure the changes are covered.
“Sometimes there will be gaps, but for the most part there will be someone there or available,” Birkhead said. “We will try to limit this gap.
Birkhead said off-duty officers could also come in to help.
Jeneane Jones-Morris has two children who attend secondary school at Durham Public Schools and she has expressed concern about the shortage of ORS.
“It’s concerning as a parent and as a citizen,” Jones-Morris said. “There are always situations in the school where ORS is needed, there were incidents last year.”
CBS 17 has asked for data from the County Durham Sheriff’s Office that shows how many different incidents have happened at schools in recent years, including fights, disturbances, weapons violations and complaints for dope.
CBS 17 found that there has been a decrease in the overall number of criminal investigations over the past two years.
For example, in the 2019-2020 school year, there were 538 criminal investigations. In 2021-2022, from August to March of this school year, there were 250 criminal investigations.
But CBS 17 also found that weapons violations and drug complaints have increased in the DPS over the past two years.
Data shows that in 2019-20 there were 30 weapons violations and that rose to 44 last year.
Drug-related complaints fell from 60 in 2019-20 to 67 last year.
According to the data, there were 130 DPS fights last year from August to March.
But the data also shows arrests are down significantly from 2018-19, as there were 18 arrests that year. There were eight arrests last year through March.
Sheryl Smith, a community activist from Durham, said it was concerning to see a shortage of ORS as such incidents remain a problem in schools.
“I mean it’s very concerning with all the crimes and shootings going on,” Smith said.
Smith asks the district to find another way to make sure schools are protected if they don’t have enough ORS.
“Hopefully some private security companies can come in and help out,” Smith said. “If they don’t have enough school resource officers in the schools, your kids are going to take over the schools if something doesn’t get done.
CBS 17 contacted other school districts in the Triangle to find out if other districts were experiencing a shortage of ORS.
CBS 17 found that SRO positions at Orange County Schools, Chapel Hill Carrboro City Schools, and Johnston County Public Schools are all fully staffed.
Wake County Public Schools told CBS 17 that they should contact each local law enforcement agency in each school’s jurisdiction to find out if there are any vacancies.
He revealed that SRO positions at schools in Cary, Apex, Wake Forest, Fuquay-Varina and Garner are all filled.
CBS 17 is still awaiting a response from Raleigh Police and the Wake County Sheriff’s Office.