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A harsh reality of safe school zones

Heidi Laubach, Staff Writer

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On the first day of school, three Uni juniors were on their way to the 7-11 on Wilshire Blvd when they were mugged at knife point. They were heading down the alley on S Barrington Ave around 3:15 PM on Aug. 15 when two men, described to be in their 20’s, approached them.“Empty your pockets,”  one man commanded, pulling out a long, rusty knife. “Or I’ll stab you right now!”The students gave up cell phones and money to preserve their safety.“I was breaking down, to be honest,” says one student, “I didn’t want to run away and leave them behind.”

Photo by: Heidi Laubach

Is it really safe? The alley (pictured above) between S Barrington Ave and Wilshire Blvd in which three Uni juniors were robbed at knife point on Aug. 15th. They were on their way to 7-Eleven. The alley also makes up a ‘Safe School Zone.’

They raced back to school and reported the event to the office and school police. However, they were met with a scolding. “They told us ‘you know you’re not supposed to go in the alley!,’ but everybody goes through the alley,” another student said, referring to his conversation with Assistant Principal Oscar Lopez and supervision aide Marcie Murillo. The trio contacted their parents and were promptly picked up.Before the incident, the students felt safe on school grounds. Even after the mugging, they said they still feel safe. “That [mugging] never happens, especially in this neighborhood,” one said.The three victims recommend that other student walk through the alley in groups.

Murillo reports that police have been patrolling the area more often after school hours following the incident. She also said robocalls were sent out to parents to warn students of possible hazards. However, the three victims and their parents can corroborate that there were no robocalls pertaining to the robbery that occurred on Aug. 15. Principal Eric Davidson holds fast to the belief that the safety of students is a responsibility shared by everyone.“It’s shared between the student, the school, and other responsible people, like LosAngeles School Police, LAPD, and community members,” he explains. “And I think that when students walk down an alleyway, they’re setting themselves up for a less than safe environment.”

The principal also notes that the campus and surrounding neighborhood make up a ‘Safe School Zone,’ in which people who commit crimes are subject to increased penalties, such as fines and jail time. According to Section 626 of the California Penal Code, a Safe School Zone is an area within 1,000 feet of a school and/or 100 feet of a designated bus stop. Additional criteria is during regular school hours and/or an hour before and after a school sponsored activity takes place on campus. However, this hasn’t stopped local lawbreakers. According to the LA Times’ Crime Map,the Sawtelle neighborhood averaged 2.7 violent crimes and 23 property crimes per week over the last three months. The first week of school, Sawtelle saw a total of 21 crimes, including rape, aggravated assaults, and thefts.

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The student news site of University High in Los Angeles, California
A harsh reality of safe school zones