It's somewhat of an arresting thought to realize the high schools in the area need full-time police officers on campus.
However, public safety officials and school principals say bringing in the police before they experience major problems will help control a lot of trouble later."We're trying to head off the kind of gang problem we're seeing in other parts of the country," said Orem Police Chief Jay Carey as he introduced the idea to the City Council recently.
"We feel now is the time to move ahead."
Carey said three resource officers, hired at a collective cost of $129,045 and assigned to Orem, Mountain View and the new Timpanogos high schools, would be "basically a part of a community policing effort."
The officers would be plain-clothes personnel who would team teach classes on civil and legal obedience, work with parents and teachers on specific concerns that involve the law, counsel students, track truancy, investigate criminal incidents and coordinate school security.
For 10 months of the year, the officers would be on site. During the summer, they would pick up assignments on the Gang Task Force.
It is proposed in this year's budget request that Alpine School District pick up 50 percent of the cost, or $53,769, for the 10 months of the school year. The district will also provide office space for the officers, said Gary Keetch, assistant superintendent over secondary schools.
Keetch said the district's experience in Pleasant Grove High and at American Fork Junior High has been successful.
"Crimes were solved in the community using information that came from the schools," said Keetch. "It really has (been successful). Keetch said the dollars involved would actually be a "recon-fig-ur-ation" of money already being spent on hiring police officers for night and extracurricular activities at an hourly rate.
Orem High principal John Childs said the idea is a good one, born as a collection of thought from those in the schools and involved in public safety.
"In today's world, it's not just what's going on in here but what we want to keep out," said Childs. "We have a large school, an open campus, people coming and going pretty much all of the time."
Orem has a student population of 2,400. They currently have an officer who responds as needed on an on-call basis.
Childs said the move to bring officers online full-time is a positive and future-thinking one.
"Let's just say that on a daily basis, we might have an illegal entry, we always have a few traffic problems, we might have a theft and we're not immune to drug and gang problems. There's always something. I think it's a good thing not only for the school but for partnership between the school and the city."
Childs said the intent is not to bring harassment to students.
"We'd be using them (the officers) in the classroom, to help us counsel students. It's not reactive. I think it's proactive."
Carey said having officers in a school has proven to be extremely effective in other areas. "We very much encourage it and feel there is strong community support for it," he said.
Carey said an officer on the grounds becomes a friend and an ear for students.
Councilman Timothy Christensen said he isn't convinced the local high schools have significant enough problems to warrant stationing an officer on campus full-time.
Councilman Steve Heinz said he feels "just the opposite. I think they're needed. I've been very interested in this. I hope the officers will stay for a long enough time they can build up the trust with the kids that'll make this work."
Steve Weber, who works for Orem in Public Works, said, "As a parent, I throw in my support. I know it's needed."
In Newport News, Va., where this type of program was in place, Carey said the officers didn't lack for things to do as students got to know the officers and began sharing information.
"The trouble with Crime Prevention Programs is they often look like they're not needed," said Carey.