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High schools in north Meck County add extra student resources officers as part of safety emphasis

CHARLOTTE — Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is spending funding this fall in hopes of increasing safety at two high schools were crime was on the rise last year.

A brand new school year always comes with a trip to the store for school supply shopping, but making sure his son is prepared for 5th grade isn’t the only thing on David Jackson’s mind.

“That he makes it back home,” Jackson said. “You see the mass shootings, and as a parent, you worry about stuff like that.”

That sobering thought motivates him to give his son -- David Jr. -- the same message before he heads to school each day.

“To be aware, make sure you looking around,” the father said. “Make sure he have his phone. (If) something crazy happens, make sure you can call me. Get down, be aware.”

Safety is top of mind for many parents sending their kids off to school, especially in north Mecklenburg County.

“Over the last year, we saw a significant increase in crime in both of our high schools, North Mecklenburg and Hopewell High School, where it was tying up officers time dealing with fights, disturbances, larcenies, things of that nature,” said Capt. Brian Vaughn, head of the Huntersville Police Department’s school resource office program for the north Mecklenburg area of CMS.

Vaughn says one dedicated SRO per high school just wasn’t adequate.

“We saw that our resources in the school, mainly the SRO, was overworked and wasn’t able to really effectively be proactive in a school to keep them safe,” he said.

Many times last school year, Vaughn said an SRO would be handling one issue when another would arise across campus. While CMS campus security was there to help, the situation would often require a response from Huntersville police.

“When we went to start advocating for ourselves to try to get these other positions, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools was supportive from the virtual beginning of this,” he said.

This year, the district approved two additional SROs for both north Mecklenburg County high schools.

“We have also added a school resource officer supervisor that will also fill in at the schools when there is crime or officers that are out there and able to fill in those spots,” Vaughn said.

The additional resources will also allow officers to focus more on engagement and not just enforcement.

“We view the SRO position as a vital role to create a bridge and a partnership with some of the local students that need a leader in their lives,” Vaughn said.

(WATCH BELOW: North Meck High School students crossing 4-lane highway to get to class)

Jonathan Lowe

Jonathan Lowe, wsoctv.com

Jonathan is a reporter for WSOC-TV.

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