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Helping them helps us

Register • Jan 17, 2014 at 7:00 PM

It is safe to say, here, in Erie County, we are tough on juvenile crime. A quick overview of our Juvenile Court Division will attest to that.

Most will say the No. 1 problem is lack of parental supervision, which many people would agree is a big problem. There’s no need for a 2013 year-end inventory of juvenile crime to highlight that — we live here — we know what takes place in our city.

What you might not know is we are not alone. Sandusky is surrounded by towns, cities and states that have the same problems. We aren’t the only community dealing with an upsurge of juvenile crime.

Communities throughout the United States have experienced some success curbing the juvenile crime rate by aggressive use of mechanisms such as diversion programming and after school youth centers.

We are not without some of the mechanisms needed to make a positive impact on the youth of our community. The Nehemiah Center, Young World Ministries and the Boys and Girls Club, to name a few.

In recent years new life has been breathed into local little league baseball programs, and the Bulldog football and wrestling programs for kids have emerged. There are community members committed to serving Sandusky’s youth.

One thing missing in the fight against juvenile delinquency is diversionary programming that will give local juvenile courts an alternative to detention facilities.

It costs $100 a day to house a child in a juvenile detention facility, and it costs $57,000 a year to house a child in an out-of-county detention facility. For the price of housing a juvenile for a year, most diversion programs can help five children. Now add that to the fact that more than 90 percent of highrisk juveniles re-offend once released from a juvenile detention facility and it becomes clear, in the long run, parents, children and taxpayers all would benefit from the implementation of diversionary programs.

Compared to detention facilities a larger percentage of children who graduate diversionary programs don’t re-offend.

If punishing the delinquent youth has not resulted in a decline in juvenile crime shouldn’t we at least try coming to the aid of these children?

Can any way of thinking or doing, however timeless, be trusted without proof, considering what passes as truth today might be discovered to be a falsehood tomorrow?

A lot of these children are the way they are for a reason. It’s time to try something different like attempting to understand where it is these kids are coming from and teaching them the skills they need to be successful in society.

Sandusky needs a program that not only accepts juvenile delinquents but also identifies high-risk juveniles to help before their behavior results in felony charges. The preservation of our youth will be highly beneficial to the City of Sandusky.

There is no turning a blind eye to the fact we have children in our city who are failing at school, surrounding themselves with negative peers, becoming involved in substance abuse, participating in gang activity and have little parental supervision.

This criminal justice system has no choice but to deal with the deeper issues these children have that lead to delinquency in order to prevent future crime and reverse what has become a culture of crime and violence.

Statistics show that most juvenile crime occurs during the after-school hours from 3 to 8 p.m.

How about an after-school program that helps them complete their homework, tutors them in areas of academic weakness, provides counseling, assists them in developing productive and healthy routines and treats each kid as an individual, taking into consideration age, family background, academic record and criminal history?

How about a weekly parenting class/support group for parents to gain advice and know that they are not alone. Just maybe it will take the embarrassment out of being the parent of a troubled child, encouraging parents who are in need of help to ask for it without shame.

Neighboring communities have even entered partnerships with local universities to stay updated on the latest research on juvenile delinquency and rehabilitation.

Think of the teens who can be reached, think of the effect positive teens can have on other teens and younger siblings.

The criminal justice system has focused on incarceration long enough. It’s time to invest community efforts toward education, healthy peer interaction and effective parenting.

A concerted effort across agencies and governments working toward a non-violent, drug-free and productive population of youth in the Sandusky area.

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