BENTON HARBOR – The last bell of the day sends high school students outside. That’s where they find every police officer from the city waiting.
One of the biggest ongoing problems facing the Benton Harbor Police Department is student fights.
These fights happen nearly every day.
Since school started in September, the Benton Harbor PD has had to break up more than 40 fights outside of school, and more than 20 students have been arrested.
Every single day after school, 6 or more police officers strategically position themselves around Benton Harbor High School. Patrol cars are parked on nearly every corner. The reason – to stop ongoing fights.
Several fights have been caught on video and are so regular, there’s a YouTube site titled “BentonHarbor Fights 2012.”
Nearly 100 students walk home from school each day. Benton Harbor Police Deputy Director Robert O’Brien says often, something happens earlier in the day that sets off an argument.
WSBT put a camera at the school Tuesday, and everything was calm. O’Brien says cameras tend to deter the fighting, so he often takes his camcorder along. Officers were also seen walking several blocks with kids to make sure no brawls started. O’Brien admits it’s a lot like babysitting, but he says having a strong police presence there is important.
O’Brien says police have talked with school officials and security to figure out ways to stop all the fighting but have not come up with any easy answers.
He admits having officers at the school every afternoon takes away from monitoring the rest of the city. He would like to have more parents help out, come stand along the streets as the kids walk home.
Any student caught fighting is arrested and sent to the juvenile center or home with parents. Most have hearing dates when they could face fines and probation.