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Police increased patrols around Southern California schools Friday in the wake of the massacre at a Connecticut elementary school that killed 27 people — including 20 students ages 5 to 10.
Police said they have directed patrols to reach out to Los-Angeles-area schools to “provide a comfort level” for students, parents, administrators and others associated with the school.
Although there are no threats to local school campuses, district officials worked to assure parents, students, faculty and staff that they are prepared for such emergencies.
Officials also reminded parents that schools are one of the safest places for children to be at a time of emergency. They said that ever since the Columbine High School shootings in 1999, schools and police have trained for on-campus and near-campus shootings, practicing regular drills.
“On a daily basis … we deploy over 200 officers a day throughout our district,” said Los Angeles School Police Department Chief Steven Zipperman. “This is something that we train for all the time in the event that we have to respond to the unfortunate incident of an active shooter.”
Authorities cautioned that there appeared to be no link between the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School at in Newtown, Conn., and Southern California.
Nonetheless, all LAPD patrol divisions were directed to contact local school administrators to “ensure there were no issues or concerns at any of our schools,” LAPD said in a statement.
LA school police also added extra patrols to “reduce any fears or anxiety related to today’s incident,” officials said.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Department likewise said its deputies would have increased presence at campuses.
“While the tragic events in Newtown, Connecticut appear to be isolated, deputies will have an increased presence at local schools,” OC Sheriff Sandra Hutchens said in a statement.
In Santa Ana, the county’s only school police department said training it’s done on campuses has been reassuring for students. High school students and teachers have even been pulled in to recreate “active shooter” scenarios.
“We regularly train,” said Lt. Mark Van Holt of the Santa Ana School District Police Department. “We train our staff; we train our students. We regularly go through lock-downs and lockout procedures.”
The LA County Sheriff’s Department sent out a reminder to parents via email about safety tips for children at or on their way to school. The Riverside Unified School District posted a note with advice for parents helping children cope with national tragedies.
As in other school districts, administrators in Riverside emphasized they were prepared.
“When you’re hit with crisis management, you don’t have time to put a plan in place, it already needs to be in place,” said Principal Kiersten Frausto at Pachappa Elementary.
Frausto said the school practices hard lock-downs twice per year “where we have all students in class, no one opens the door for anyone and you go to nearest classroom and … we have systems in place to account for all students.”
LA school district officials said each school has a safety plan which includes “responding to incidents where students and staff may be in danger of injury.” They also said each school has a “crisis team” of counselors ready to help students and others deal with the aftermath of a tragedy.
“Hug your kids and loved ones today when you see them next,” said LAPD Lt. Paul Vernon in a statement. “These tragic incidents can happen anywhere at anytime. Help your kids put these incidents in perspective so they don’t become overwhelmed.”
NBC4’s Jacob Rascon, Gordon Tokumatsu and Vikki Vargas contributed to this report.