Authorities say it's not crime prevention, but intervention
PRESCOTT – The way both Gordon Glau and Robert Brutinel see it, once an offender comes to their attention, it's no longer about juvenile crime prevention.
It's about juvenile crime intervention.
Still, the numbers indicate that Glau – Yavapai County's director of juvenile court services – and Brutinel – Yavapai County's presiding juvenile court judge – are having a major impact when it comes to stemming criminal activity among area youths.
While the population continues to explode not only in the tri-city area but the county as a whole, the number of referrals by law enforcement agencies to the juvenile justice system are heading in the opposite direction.
After remaining steady for seven consecutive fiscal years, the number of referrals during the 2003 fiscal year dropped by almost 11 percent from 2002.
The 2,542 referrals are the lowest since juvenile authorities made 2,487 during the 1995 fiscal year.
"What I really think happens is that our communities within the county have been very youth-oriented in trying to build resources and opportunities for young people and their families, and I think that's starting to pay off," Glau said.
"And I think part of what we're doing is having an impact on it – we certainly not only try to get the juvenile and the family the help they need … but we hold kids accountable. There's a real balance between the two, and I think a lot of our young offenders get the message early on. They don't want to come back. So I think those are both indications of why maybe the juvenile referrals have flattened out."
Under the dual guidance of Glau and Brutinel, Yavapai County has instituted a number of programs, including a Road Court that travels to area middle schools, aimed at keeping juveniles away from crime.
However, as Brutinel said: "Kids make mistakes. We expect kids to make mistakes. That's part of being a kid."
The bigger challenge, as it turns out, is limiting them to one youthful transgression, keeping them from becoming a repeat offender who can't escape the juvenile justice system.
"About 75 percent of those kids will come one time and never come back," Brutinel said. "They get the message. They don't want to have any part of that.
"Of that remaining percent, probably half will come back more than once but won't go on to the adult court. And then there is a percentage that are going to go on and become adult criminals. I guess our big problem is trying to figure out who's who."
That's where numerous intervention programs come into play. Among those created to deal with juvenile offenders include Teen Court, Drug Court and the establishment of Community Juvenile Justice Commissions to show offenders how their crimes are hurting the com-munity.
"Clearly, we've gotten tougher on juvenile crime. We did that because the citizens of this state voted and said that's where they wanted us to go," Brutinel said.
"I think we're better on the treatment side and I think we're also tougher on the punishment side."
Brutinel and Glau also agree that the best program of all for deterring juvenile crime is simple – parental involvement.
"I always encourage parents, seek out what your son or daughter's interests are, and really foster that and try to find a way to get them to pursue that," Glau said. "That's the best thing parents can do.
"If they (youths) can find something and it's positive for them instead of negative, that's the best delinquency prevention thing going."