Olathe police officers are approaching school safety by trying to get into kids' heads before they have to respond to a crime.
A focus group with teens was held Thursday night. This was the second one the department has tried, asking kids from all the Olathe public high schools and St. Thomas Aquinas about hot-button safety issues.
The Olathe Police Department and the Citizens Police Advisory Council, along with the Olathe Teen Council, Olathe School District and St. Thomas Aquinas High School, invited student leaders to participate in a two-hour student forum to provide feedback on a variety of issues affecting Olathe's youth population.
One safety issue no one raised was high-profile school shootings, with traffic safety and parking issues more relevant to their day-to-day. The crime concerns were more about vandalism and petty theft than personal safety.
"I think that everybody feels safe at school. It's mostly like the petty stuff, like people stealing, like maybe if you left your cell phone out. Mostly people are pretty comfortable. Nobody steals money from anybody's wallets or anything," Olathe South sophomore Brooke Alemu said.
Police spent the evening asking students their views on a variety issues including crime, campus safety, traffic, alcohol, narcotics, school resource officers and current youth trends.
Olathe South junior Genessis Ortiz said drugs and alcohol are a serious issue.
While alcohol remains a concern, marijuana is a growing concern from the previous year.
Some students said having police officers and security officers inside buildings helps deter crime. Some said school-resource officers could be even more visible.
"With the SOR there, it really helps out a lot," Olathe North freshman Marcus Sawyer said. "You have somebody that you know you can count on to help you out if there's something that goes wrong."
The police department said they highly value the close working relationship officers have with the various schools and students associated with Olathe.
One of the organizers said the biggest concern among kids at the last forum was cyber bullying. That had been the No. 1 concern 18 months ago, but now that is no longer such a major concern, officials said.
KCTV5 did not cover the entire event to afford students the opportunity to speak openly without cameras present.
Copyright 2013 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.
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