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5-2-07

 
   

Juvenile crime rate shows decline in county

 
 

by Stacy Wiedmaier
Landmark reporter

How many kids are in the system and how many find their way out?

The Platte County Juvenile Office has released the first edition of its report card to the public informing about their strategy to further safety, restore justice to victims and reduce the risk of re-offending.

Juvenile officer Janet Warner said this is the first time the office has released a report card, although they have done a statistical analysis in years past. She intends to make this report card an annual occurrence.

This four-page report was developed to show taxpayers what changes their investments have made in the community. It states citizens were questioned what they want to accomplish with their justice system, and they said major priorities include seeing offenders become accountable for their actions, seeing crime victims receive justice and wanting offenders to cease their criminal activity and become responsible and productive citizens.

Warner said she feels this report card is an important aspect of her department’s ultimate goal.

“It gives citizens a gauge of what goes on within their community,” said Warner. “It’s important that this department is held accountable and just as important for citizens to know and understand what we do to serve the community. It’s another way for us to educate them.”

The juvenile population includes youth from the ages of seven through eleventh grades. Two indicators of the juvenile crime trends are the per capita rate of juvenile offenders and those who commit crimes that warrant a waiver to adult court.

In 2006, 24 Platte County youths were found to be delinquent. This means that 3.2 of every 1,000 youths were found delinquent. These statistics are down from past years, as there were 5.2 delinquent youths in 2005 and 4.8 in 2004.

Last year there was only one youth who committed a crime that warranted prosecution in adult court. The previous year there was also one youth tried as an adult, but there were 3 in 2004. Data from 2006 shows that over 97 percent of juveniles released into the community following court ordered supervision had no new criminal charges filed against them within a one year time span.

Warner said the Platte County Juvenile Office is fortunate that they deal with less violent offenses, compared to nearby counties such as Jackson.

“We rarely see the real dangerous crimes committed by juveniles, such as murder,” said Warner. “I would say about one third of the cases referred to us are for assault cases, but there is also a large majority of stealing.”

There were 194 youths supervised for delinquencies who aged out of the system, or turned 17, in the midst of the juvenile system last year. Statistics show that out of the youths who aged out of the system, 178 of them had no adult criminal convictions in Missouri within the next year. An impressive amount of court ordered restitution was paid back to victims.

Of the restitution orders remaining open at the end of the year, 94 percent were being paid back on schedule. Offenders were ordered to pay their victims $18,238 and $17,064 of that amount has been paid.

Warner said the involved law enforcement agencies conduct the initial investigations and then specific cases are referred to the juvenile office. Parental input and contact with the victim is available if requested and the most common sentence is what is referred to as “active restitution.” Warner described this program where the juvenile completes community service and is paid minimum wage for their duties. These funds are then transferred to their victims for out-of-pocket expenses.

Offenders are expected to perform specific work order duties to repay their community for their crimes. In 2006, over 2,100 hours of service were ordered to be performed by offenders. The amount of service performed was nearly 1,900 hours. This means 91 percent of the offender’s work orders were concluded and this work was valued at $9,867, calculated at minimum wage. Since the work services program began, more than 51,000 hours of service have been performed. The total value of these services was calculated at over $264,000.

There is a measuring system in place that provides a survey to Platte County crime victims that helps to determine their level of satisfaction. The victims are asked to rate their overall experience with the juvenile office. These surveys were distributed to 98 crime victims, although 18 percent responded to the survey. Overall, more than 76 percent said they were satisfied by how their case was handled. Forty-nine percent of crime victims rated the juvenile office handled their cases in an excellent manner, another 27 said it was good, 15 percent rated it fair and the remaining 8 percent said their experience was poor.

There were 60 percent of juvenile offenders that were tested and found negative for illegal drug and alcohol use while they were under suspension. Marijuana was the most common drug for which a positive test was received.

When cases were closed, the juvenile office found that 97 percent of the juveniles completing court orders were actively involved in school, vocational training, or another alternative education program. For those juveniles not involved in a school system, 2.7 percent were employed.

There were 335 juveniles supervised by an officer in 2006; eight who were on home monitoring systems, 15 in home detention and another 34 in a secure detention center. Fifty nine youths were in a drug abuse prevention program and 122 involved in community service programs.

Warner said she has worked for the juvenile office since 1981, and for the most part, their referrals have remained stable. She said the largest increase in criminal activity she has witnessed includes the prevalence of substance abuse, mainly marijuana and alcohol.