With a truancy plan in place and dozens of programs for teenagers on line and in the works, Spokane is tackling the mayor’s six-point plan to combat youth violence.
The City Council heard Monday how criminal justice officials work with police, police with schools officials, and schools with neighborhoods in a chain of communication that hopes to break the recent crime cycle.
“Linking is what it’s all about,” Joanne Benham, city Youth Department director, told the council Monday.
But more needs to be done.
“We all need to improve our listening skills - adults and teens,” Benham said.
In August, Mayor Jack Geraghty presented his colleagues with a plan aimed at curbing the rush of teenage crime.
His plan - and some of the progress made toward its implementation - includes:
Hiring two police officers for a north Spokane truancy center.
The truancy center opened three weeks ago, said Gary Livingston, superintendent of Spokane School District. So far, the officers have picked up 127 truants - 84 boys, 43 girls, mostly ninth and 10th graders.
Enacting a selective 10 p.m. curfew for youths 16 and under with criminal records.
The legal department still is studying this as legal challenges to curfews largely have been successful, said City Attorney Jim Sloane.
Police say it would be hard to enforce, especially with nowhere to take the teenagers after they’re stopped.
Increasing coordination within the justice system to target juvenile problems.
Assistant Police Chief Dave Peffer and Prosecutor Jim Sweetser listed several programs, including the truancy program, already in place that bring agencies together.
“We can’t do it alone, and we’re not going to try,” Peffer said.
Customizing programs to fight violence in each neighborhood.
Neighborhood activists listed several programs designed to keep teenagers busy and away from trouble. Those ranged from graffiti cleanup to bowling tournaments to summer youth programs.
Forming a youth task force to meet regularly with city officials.
Paul Clay, of the Chase Youth Commission, asked council members to meet with teenagers.
Talking to them directly is the only way to find out what they need and consider important, Clay said. “We need to get into their skin and walk around in it.”
Increasing the enforcement of laws addressing kids and guns.
“That’s kind of a no-brainer,” Peffer said. “We need to have zero tolerance for kids with guns.”
Peffer also urged the council to remember that only 6 percent of the teenage population joined the yearly crime statistics.
“About 94 percent of juveniles have never and will never be arrested by anybody,” he said.
In response to the report, Geraghty said he “heard a real positive side to what’s going on in our community. Everything isn’t perfect, but we’re making some headway.”
Also Monday, the council put some much-needed money into the account that goes toward street repair and construction.
The council combined money from real estate excise taxes, the under-freeway parking fund and the Riverpoint land acquisition fund to drop a total of $1 million into the account that otherwise would have had no money next year.
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