Lee Zeldin told New York City parents he supports arming school safety agents and also outfitting them with bulletproof vests as statistics showed an uptick in school crimes and weapons confiscations this year.
The Republican congressman from Long Island, who is vying to oust Gov. Kathy Hochul from office, made a surprise appearance and briefly took questions during a Zoom meeting Wednesday night sponsored by the NYC School Safety Coalition.
“It’s somewhat controversial, but I believe they should be trained armed school resource officers,” Zeldin said.
He added that having school safety agents equipped with protective vests is a no-brainer: “Absolutely 100%.”
“That shouldn’t require legislation. That should be the way it is. It’s important they all have access to that, for sure,” he said.
Teamsters Local 237, which represents city school safety agents, has called for bulletproof vests for its officers for more than 10 years, president Greg Floyd told The Post. But the union boss raised concerns about any policy that arms agents without proper training.
“Bulletproof vests, we would accept,” said Floyd. “But arming 3,000, 4,000 school safety agents who weren’t hired to be armed is a question mark.
“None of them have been trained for firearms, or even hired for that purpose. It changes the job title, it changes the whole function,” he added.
Floyd instead called for more personnel — there are roughly 3,256 agents citywide, from about 5,000 officers before the pandemic. The new figures come as the NYPD as a whole is on pace to see thousands of cops retire or resign this year — the most since the post-9/11 exodus, The Post previously reported.
NYPD Captain Marlon Larin at the coalition meeting said that the number spread across 1,400 school buildings “doesn’t translate to very much.”
“That’s why, unfortunately, you’re seeing those low numbers at these mega campuses, and unfortunately our elementary schools have single agents, which naturally we don’t want to see,” Larin said.
Some parents at the meeting blasted the low number of safety agents at Tottenville High School, where a 14-year-old innocent bystander was shot in the leg during a fight outside the Staten Island school with 3,700 students.
Zeldin’s comments came shortly after Larin rattled off an alarming increase in confiscated weapons and crimes on campus.
This school year, 1,454 pepper sprays, knives, tasers, and other weapons have been recovered so far, compared to 790 at this point last year. Five of those weapons were firearms, compared to 21 in total by the end of last school year.
“We’re on pace to break last year’s record,” Larin said.
Larin also pointed to an increase in property crime since July 1 — including burglaries, up from 13 incidents last year to 18 so far, and grand larcenies, from 22 to 34. The police captain called it a “lesson learned” about better-securing property going forward.
“We had a lot of summer programming. A lot of outsiders that come into the school, and now things were missing,” he said.
Close to 140 local organizations provided services to roughly 110,000 elementary and middle school students in the city’s summer school and camp program this year, up from 98,000 children last year.
New York City is also actively looking at a new buzzer or intercom system — so that local schools can lock their front doors between arrival and dismissal while letting students and teachers access the building as needed during regular hours.
Parents and lawmakers including council members Joann Ariola and Robert Holden threw their support behind the proposal, while Holden told parents: “It will be coming soon to a school near you.”
“The doors [at school] have to be locked,” said Holden, a Queens Democrat who has crossed party lines to endorse Zeldin over Hochul. “We lock our doors at home.”
Schools across the country have doubled down on equipping safety officers and other school staff with bulletproof protection and weapons in recent years, following school shootings that left dozens of innocent children dead.
Texas officials shelled out tens of millions of dollars this summer to give school police officers bullet-resistant shields, after a gunman opened fire at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas that killed 19 students and two teachers.
And after a school shooter slaughtered 14 students and three teachers in Parkland in 2018, Florida rolled out a new program that lets school staffers carry firearms. Roughly two-thirds of schools in the Sunshine State have signed onto the push.
Mona Davids, who heads the coalition, praised gubernatorial candidate Zeldin’s commitment to providing vests to school safety agents. She said an invitation was also extended to Hochul’s campaign to speak to the group, but she did not get a response.
Hochul and the city Department of Education did not immediately return requests for comment.