D.C. police have picked up truant students 4,705 times already this school year, Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier said.
The students are missing class but not the opportunity to thieve around the District -- often they are picked up for a crime and found to be truant.
"Our single biggest issue with truants right now is burglars," Lanier told Councilwoman Yvette Alexander, D-Ward 7, at a public oversight hearing of the D.C. Council's special committee on school safety and truancy.
The problem has not improved from last year, when 4,770 students were picked up for skipping school through March. That's an easy target for D.C. students to surpass with March only half over and 4,705 truancy pickups already racked up.
About 20 percent of this year's pickups involved a student who was truant multiple times.
Councilman Sekou Biddle, chairman of the committee, said his home was burglarized about a year and a half ago. "I'm not a detective," he said, but he did notice the bowl of pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters he kept on his dresser had been stolen. "This is probably not someone who does this professionally," he said. "This is a young person who sees this as a real amount of money to be taken with them. That's what they're learning, because they're not in school."
In 2010, Metro Transit Police arrested 507 school-age children, one-quarter of all arrests and a 9 percent increase over 2009.
Acting Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson said she resisted viewing parent accountability "as some kind of silver bullet."
"Many of our parents aren't able to be good parents, quite frankly, because we failed them as students," said Henderson, reiterating that "if the instruction that's happening in [a] classroom is not engaging and relevant, you want to pluck your eyelashes out."
Alexander said the community needs to play a bigger role in reporting truants.
"They go in stores, they buy a bag of chips, no one says anything. Walking down the street, nobody saying anything," she said.