A county panel representing public safety interests will review two projects concerning youth and the law Tuesday.
The local Public Safety Coordinating Committee, composed of various county law enforcement officers and community partners, meets once a month.
Deschutes County Juvenile Community Justice will present a report on juveniles whose first offense is possessing alcohol or less than 1 ounce of marijuana.
The district attorney’s office and the KIDS Center, a child abuse intervention center, also will update the panel on the first year of a program to step up domestic violence intervention by systematically interviewing children who may have witnessed domestic violence.
According to Deevy Holcomb, management analyst at Juvenile Community Justice, the department had to take on about 200 additional cases of youth alcohol and marijuana offenses after the Bend Police Department ceased its youth diversion program in July 2012. Juvenile Community Justice already managed anywhere from 350 to 400 cases a year on its own. As a result, the department sought to manage the increased referrals with limited resources.
It’s a balancing act, Holcomb said: For low-risk youth, a higher degree of involvement in the criminal justice system can actually have a negative effect. But for higher-risk kids, early intervention can make a significant difference.
“The higher the risk, the more resources you need to bring to bear,” said Holcomb.
Holcomb found in 2012 that 75 to 80 percent of first-time offenders for alcohol and less than 1 ounce of marijuana didn’t offend again when tracked for six months. So the department limited its involvement in the first-time offenses to warning letters.
“We didn’t see them; we didn’t have any kind of contact,” said Holcomb. “That was in a way a data-driven decision, but in a way our community partners were pretty torqued.”
With the help of a Juvenile Accountability Block Grant from the Oregon Department of Education, Juvenile Community Justice then decided to examine first-time offender outcomes after 12 months.
The number of youth reoffending was actually 30 percent after 12 months. “We saw those kids were more similar to criminal-offending kids than we originally thought,” said Holcomb. So Juvenile Community Justice is in the midst of implementing a more rigorous process to assess risk of reoffending.
The group is scheduled to meet with Deschutes County Health services Jan. 12 to review the report and discuss the results, Holcomb said.
Also at Tuesday’s meeting, Deputy District Attorney Drew Moore and KIDS Center Executive Director Shelly Smith will present an update on a year-old pilot program to ensure that child witnesses of domestic violence are interviewed. The new process includes several extra steps, starting with a recorded forensic interview with the child and followed by assessments of needs, safety and child welfare.
Since November, the team has received 26 referrals and completed 15 interviews. About half of the interviews were conducted within 24 hours and 93 percent of children interviewed disclosed they had witnessed violence, according to a presentation prepared for the meeting.
To qualify for the interview program, which is inspired by a similar program in Lane County, children must be 4 years old and an adult in the home must have been arrested for felony fourth-degree assault.
“(The program) helps with prosecution,” Moore said Friday. “We think it helps with accountability, helps with getting resources to victims, to children. And I think in a number of cases we may not have had as much information from the children because of the dynamics of the family.”
Before the program can get fully off the ground, local law enforcement agencies must be trained to refer cases to the young program, and Moore said they are training agencies one at a time. Redmond Police are scheduled to be trained this month.
Moore said it was too soon to tell if the program has had an effect . “I think we probably need a full year with everybody on board to get a sense of how everything will go,” Moore said. He said the cases that have been processed “have been positive in getting resources to the families” and making sure that kids’ voices are heard.