Archive for Tuesday, November 10, 1998

SOLUTIONS TO CRIME PROBLEMS PROPOSED

November 10, 1998

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About 40 people attended a public forum in which a report on juvenile crime in Douglas County was presented.

More people are needed as foster parents, and teachers and other officials should have cultural training for minorities, audience members said at a forum Monday night.

"Twenty years ago Douglas County had about 80 foster homes; now there's probably less than 20," said Greydon Walker, a local foster parent.

"Nobody wants to do it. Nobody wants to take a teen who has broken the law into their home and put their family at risk."

Walker and other people made comments following presentation of a report on juvenile crime in Douglas County.

About 40 people attended the meeting at the Douglas County 4-H Fairgrounds.

The report, complied by a committee of city and business officials, social service agency representatives and youth service providers, will be presented to the Douglas County Commission and to the state's Juvenile Justice Authority.

The Justice Authority could fund prevention programs through the Legislature based on recommendations in the report. The report intentionally does not address specific programs, but broader issues, committee members said.

"Kansas is at the forefront of this national movement of juvenile justice reform," Rod Bremby, assistant city manager and a member of the committee.

The report's findings included a 45 percent increase in out-of-school suspensions for Lawrence elementary school students from 1993 to 1997.

It also found that the average time between commission of a juvenile crime and sentencing of the offender is 147 days.

"Reducing that lag time, I hope you make that a priority," said Shaffia Laue, a child psychiatrist who attended the meeting.

Douglas County Assistant Dist. Atty. Shelley Diehl said the delay is caused in part by Kansas Bureau of Investigation lab report results that often take 60 to 90 days, and psychological evaluation results, which may take 30 days.

She said sentencing juveniles months after they have committed a crime is "a little like spanking a puppy six months after it's wet the carpet -- it doesn't understand."

The report's strategies for combating juvenile crime include developing a first-time offender program for juvenile drug crimes, establishing teen centers in area towns, and "more culturally specific and vocationally oriented mentoring programs."

The proportion of minorities arrested for juvenile crimes is more than twice that of their percentage in the county's population, the report said.

Lawrence resident Sharon Goolsby said that in addition to culturally oriented mentoring programs, there should also be cultural competency.

"People should be trained in how minorities learn ... so that minorities can take pride in their culture," she said.

-- Michael Dekker's phone message number is 832-7187. His e-mail address is mdekker@ljworld.com.

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