The City of Hollywood, Florida has been actively combating violence in the community and schools since it's incorporation in 1925. During the past decade however, with the increased incidences of violence occurring on the campuses of public and private schools nationwide, the city, in conjunction with it's police department developed the Youth Section to combat this violence and offer alternatives to at-risk students.
1. Briefly describe the structure of your program.
The Youth Section is comprised of 20 sworn police officers. 1 lieutenant, 1 sergeant, 3 detectives, 7 school resource officers, 6 D.A.R.E. officers, and 2 youth resource officers. The program is operated under the Special Operations Division of the police department and provides for the assignment of personnel as follows:
2. When was the program created and why?
This program was created by the City of Hollywood and implemented in November 1987. Originally the program consisted of 1 sergeant, 7 school resource officers, and 2 detectives. Since that time, the program has grown to it's current complement of 20.
The program was created for several reasons. First and foremost was to combat the increased number of incidents of reported school violence. We were somewhat surprised when we discovered that during the first year of having a police officer on campus the number of reported crimes soared. Further investigation revealed that although actual crimes dropped significantly, the number being reported rose due to the availability of a police officer to take the report. Since that initial year in the schools we have witnessed a steady decline in the number of reported incidents of a criminal nature. This past school year (1997-98) has been the best to date with only two guns brought on a school campus all year. In both of these incidents, the school resource officer was told about the guns by students prior to the end of the first hour.
The second reason the program was created was from a perspective of police-community relations. One objective of the school resource officers was to get to know the students more personally and to let the students get to know the officers as a person. The officers were involved in an array of activities in the pursuit of this objective including teaching, coaching, counseling, and just "hanging out" in the hallways.
A third reason the program was created was to assist officers and school personnel in identifying at-risk youths and attempt to divert them away from the juvenile justice system. We have viewed the role of the school resource officer as the purest form of community oriented policing. The role of the school resource officer is to attempt to identify problems and possible conflicts before they occur and to provide alternatives and remedies to those conflicts. We have also made great strides in providing at-risk kids with positive role models and alternatives to delinquent behavior.
3. How do you measure the programís effectiveness?
At the onset of this program we realized that the traditional methods of measuring a police officer's performance would be inadequate for a member of the Youth Section. As such, we analyzed the activities of these members and devised a method for measuring the success of an officer and the program based on the contacts with the students, the reduction in reported incidents, and the knowledge students could demonstrate about the difference between right and wrong.
We began monitoring the officer's activities in the areas of student contacts, student conferences, parent conferences, classroom presentations, number of truants, number of diversions, number of counseling referrals, faculty conferences and the number of incidents.
In tracking these figures, we have noticed a pattern over the years of increased student contact and reduced incidents of violence and delinquent behavior. What is also very noteworthy of this program is the fact that in November of 1987 school principals and administrators resisted the placement of a uniformed police officer on their campus. Now these same principals and administrators wonder how they ever got by without one.
4. How is the program financed?
The Youth Section is financed using general revenue funding with one exception. The School Board of Broward County compensates the city at the rate of $12,000 per year for each full-time school resource officer placed at a public school.
5. How is the community involved in the program, if at all? How has the community responded to the program?
The Youth Section works very closely with The Starting Place, a community based adolescent substance abuse and behavior modification center. Members of the program refer an average of 300 kids per year to The Starting Place for counseling for behavior such as running away, substance abuse, anger management, and conflict resolution. This counseling is available not only to juveniles but to their families as well.
The program also works with many community volunteers in the day to day operation of the Boys and Girls Club and the Police Athletic League. The youth section administers a board of community volunteers to oversee and authorize expenditures and programs for the participants at the Police Athletic League.
The program has also enlisted the assistance of many community members in assisting us in identifying and targeting areas commonly known for juveniles gathering and the placement of graffiti. This has been tremendously successful and with the assistance of these community volunteers, code enforcement officers, and new legislation requiring that graffiti be painted over immediately, we have seen a reduction in the amount of graffiti throughout the city by as much as 75%.
6. Contact person:
The United States Conference of Mayors
J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
Copyright © 1999, US Conference of Mayors, All rights reserved.