GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - School security is front and center one day after a 7th grader was arrested for carrying weapons onto North Gulfport 7th and 8th grade school.
More can be done, but police and school officials say the best security is building good relationships. That's where some of the most important people come in: School resource officers.
Officer Raymond Brooks is the elder statesman for SROs in Gulfport. He says building good relationships is his most important job to create a safe environment.
"Having the people in the community, the students, parents, the staff feeling comfortable talking to a police officer, especially somebody they see on a daily basis, makes that transition a whole lot easier," said Brooks.
That relationship made it possible for three students to report the violation to authorities.
"School resource officers are vital to our success," said Sgt. Josh Bromen, Gulfport Police Department Public Information Officer. "Not only as a police department, but as a city. They are contacting these children from the time they are entering the school system to the time they leave."
North Gulfport 7th and 8th Grade School, and the other middle schools as well as the high school, have full-time SROs. But, no security measures are foolproof.
Only clear or mesh book bags are allowed at the school, but the pellet guns and knives found on Wednesday were in a mesh backpack hidden in a zippered compartment.
Officials are faced with the reality that if someone wants to get on campus with a weapon, they probably can. That's the reason why developing good relationships are so important. Even so, officials want to be careful not to overreact.
"I think keeping the balance of what we do without disrupting the learning process in those schools is very important," Brooks said. "It's a delicate balance we have to keep. We don't want to turn it into a police state. That would be counterproductive.
There are only about 10 SROs to cover all the schools in the Gulfport city limits, down from 21 in 2001.