In 2012 calls from the have accounted for 31 to 42 percent of monthly police activity in the village, said Hastings Police Chief David Bloomer.
"We've been working on this for over a year," Bloomer said. "My greatest fear is that one of our fire department members gets hurt rushing to an alarm pulled by a student at Graham."
A number of police chiefs in the area have come together to form a committee on how to deal with and reduce the amount of work generated from residential Special Act School districts within their jurisdictions.
"We've noticed that the volume of calls has increased greatly over the last few years," Bloomer said.
Graham-Windham School President, Jess Dannhauser thinks there are many changes that can potentially alleviate the onus on the police department.
"We're working closely with law enforcement," Dannhauser said. "We consider this a partnership."
An example would be Graham not having to call every time a student leaves campus without permission. He also added that both he and Blomer agree that many other calls to police could have been handled internally.
"Very rarely, when a student is not on campus, is he or she in Hastings or North of Hastings; they head towards the City."
However, according to State law, Graham's staff must report all missing students to their local police jurisdiction—Bloomer has a box of AWOL reports pouring over the edges...just for 2012.
"We believe there are three different circumstances when students are missing," Dannhauser said. "The first is when he or she overstays a weekend pass. The second is running away to a trusted aunt or other family member we might not know about."
It's only the third circumstance which concerns Dannhauser and his colleagues.
"Some students, especially female students, are in danger by being on their own in New York City. There's a huge uptick in sex trafficking, and in these circumstances, we feel as if calling law enforcement is imperative."
Though he added that the first call is to precincts in New York City, whom he believes can be most helpful in locating the missing students.
Hastings Trustee Nicola Armacost is concerned by the financial strain Graham-Windham puts on the village—through the fire department, ambulance corps. police department and court system.
"Of increasing concern is that the types of children that are now being moved to facilities like the Graham School due to these shut downs are actually much more challenging to handle than the typical Graham School resident used to be," Armacost said. "There was a reason that these types of kids were being sent to more secure facilities, and arguably less secure facilities like the Graham School or Children's Village are not actually properly equipped to handle this new, much more challenging type of resident."
Dannhauser doesn't believe this has been a significant problem at his school.
"We haven't had a huge change in our population of residents," he said. "There has been an initiative to send children in the foster care system closer to home [usually New York City] than to schools up North."
But Dannhauser does not believe these shifts have made a large difference in the number of calls coming from his school.
"We actually have the fewest students who have been adjudicated through the court system to Graham," he said. "More of our residents come from the foster system than ever before."
However there are hypotheses, he said, that foster children and teens are more likely to overstay their passes and leave campus because there are less significant repercussions for breaking the rules.
Starting in the fall, there will be no students at Graham who were sent there for committing minor crimes.
"There will be new facilities for juvenile delinquents," Dannhauser said. "We could have applied to continue serving as an alternative to detention center, though after much discussion, we decided not to do that."
Dannhauser and other members of the school's board are not sure how this major change will affect the school's culture or the number of calls to Hastings Police.
"My feeling is that our villages just can't sustain the call volume as it is now; we have only two officers on the road at any given time," Bloomer said. "We have high hopes for our chiefs' committee being able to come together to find effective solutions."
Stay tuned for a story tomorrow on and its relationship with Dobbs Ferry Police—also a story on updates from the chiefs' committee as more information unfolds.
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