YOUTH SERVICES PROGRAM
The Huntsville Police Department is a Nationally Accredited Law Enforcement Agency with a compliment of 335 sworn officers and a responsibility to 172,000 citizens. Of the 172,000 citizens, 26,000 are students in the Huntsville City School System. The high schools account for 7,000 students.
The Huntsville Police Department performed a crime analysis which revealed an increase of criminal incidents involving juveniles within our jurisdiction and public school system. In 1995, the Huntsville Police Department received a U.S. Department of Justice grant which allowed a cooperative effort between several non-law enforcement agencies and organizations to develop a strategy which addresses this problem.
The result of our combined efforts was the Youth Services Program which was established in the fall of 1995. This program was designed as a multi agency approach to the multifaceted problem of juvenile crime. The success of the program hinged on the creation of strong, interactive partnerships between individual components of the criminal justice system, non-law enforcement agencies and the community-at-large. The interagency cooperation that took place in the programís planning phase was instrumental in creating the foundation for these vital partnerships.
All entities involved were able to identify common problems and devise joint solutions that rely on collective participation. Our plan was to build on these relationships and utilize them as a basis for the successful implementation of the Youth Services Program and our comprehensive plan.
# 1. Develop, implement, and maintain an effective, interactive partnership in the Policing and Educational Systems.
# 2. Produce better educated, well-rounded, responsible citizens through collective participation.
# 3. Improve relationships and enhance participation between the following: The City of Huntsville, Huntsville City School System, Huntsville Police Department, School Security, Parents, Teachers, Students, and Social Service Agencies.
# 4. Improve the quality of education in the Huntsville City Schools through the following methods: Proactive approach, early intervention, prevention before reaction, increased community involvement, heightened parent participation, improved student perceptions, and the business communityís support.
# 5. Reduce the following in the school system: Criminal incidents, expulsions, major disciplinary actions, disciplinary interference in the educational process, and negative perceptions.
# 1. Training: Youth Services Officers, school security, administrators, parents, and students.
# 2. Establish a Crisis Intervention Team which would include representatives from the following: School system personnel, police officers, social service agencies, parents, prosecutors, family court system, civic organizations, and the business community.
# 3. Develop interaction and involvement between the following: Youth Services Officers, faculty, staff, social services personnel, counselors, parents, and P. T. A. Members.
# 4. Communication: Establish and maintain effective channels of communication among all participating agencies and organizations.
# 5. Intervention: Identify students with academic, social, and criminal problems. Determine intervention methods for these students in conjunction with school and social services personnel.
# 6. Create a positive influence on the students through a role model/mentor relationship, achieved through daily interaction between the Youth Services Officers and students.
Implementation of the Youth Services Program
The Youth Services Program utilizes a proactive approach to preventing juvenile crime through early intervention. Staffed with a supervisor and ten grant-funded officers deployed in two-man teams, assigned to a specific school where they work with the students, their parents and school system personnel.
The Youth Services Officers provide a variety of services. There is constructive interaction between the Youth Services Officers, students and school faculty on a daily basis. This creates a positive influence for students through the development of role model/mentor relationship. A strong emphasis is placed on early intervention with at-risk students. The Youth Services Officers work with school counselors and faculty on a continuing basis to identify potential at-risk students and determine their individual problems.
Crisis Intervention Teams are established in each school, utilizing representatives from various social service agencies and community organizations. The Crisis Intervention Teams develop intercession plans tailored to the specific needs of each potential at-risk student. The Youth Services Officers coordinate the resources necessary to implement these plans, work with the students during implementation and monitor the students progress to ascertain the effectiveness of each plan. The officers also utilize the Crisis Intervention Teams to provide the same functions in the neighborhoods as they do in the schools. The emphasis is to maintain and strengthen the personal relationships developed during the school year between the officers, the students and their families. This helps create positive, interactive partnerships between the Huntsville Police Department and the community. It also expands the Youth Service Program to a year-round function that impacts the cityís public schools, individual neighborhoods and the community-at-large.
Statistics were gathered throughout the first year of the program to assure our objectives were leading to fulfillment of the programís goals. A statistical analysis was completed at the end of the first year. The analysis revealed the Youth Services Program through its officers had obtained several of its goals, far surpassing the departmentís hopes for the first year. The analysis also revealed an area in need of improvement.
The one area of the program that had the most room for improvement was the summer when the students are out of school. We maintained contact with some of the students through summer school. Two officers were assigned to the school for a two-week period and rotated throughout the unit. The remainder of the officers were assigned to Uniform Patrol and dispatched to the part of town where their school was located. The statistical analysis revealed that the officerís time in service went up drastically. The Youth Services Officers now had an in service time of 24.5%, which was an increase of 92.7%.
The Huntsville Police Department recognized the opportunity for improvement in the program and reassigned it to the Staff Services Bureau allowing closer cooperation between other community oriented policing units of the department. The Youth Service Program now works closely with the Community Resource Officers who have countless contacts throughout the community.
A Youth Services Officer patrols a four to six acre area while a Uniformed Officer may patrol up to thirty square miles. The number of misdemeanor arrests by Youth Services Officers was greater than any of the district areas of Uniformed Patrol. Youth Services Officers had 136 misdemeanor arrests while the Alpha district had 95, Baker district 65, Charlie district 119, Delta district 102, and the Echo district 102. The number of felony arrests by Youth Services Officers was 20, while the Alpha district had 37, Baker district 23, Charlie district 43, Delta district 18, and the Echo district had 28.
Making arrests is not the focus nor a goal of the Youth Services Program; however, it is a necessary part of protecting life and property. The Huntsville City School System has an excellent "No Fight Policy" which makes an arrest and suspension mandatory. We strive for prevention rather than post action to an incident. Our goal is to detect and mediate before a disagreement becomes an altercation.
Prior to the Youth Services Program, officers would respond to schools after the disturbance had begun. This led to larger disturbances which disrupted the learning environment for extended periods of time and involved a greater number of participants. Disturbances such as this led to the deployment of the Huntsville Police Departments ten man Special Response Team to one of the city schools in 1994. The Special Response Team maintained a presence at the school for approximately 10 weeks in order to establish a safe school environment. The environment was safer but was not conducive to learning.
Since the inception of the Youth Services Program, we have been able to maintain control even during potentially dangerous outbreaks of violence. Order is restored within minutes instead of hours or days, and the learning environment is protected from long periods of disruption. What in the past took ten officers to accomplish on a temporary basis is now accomplished by two officers on a full-time basis.
The program goes far beyond maintaining peace in the schools. Developing a rapport with students is a goal of the program that must be accomplished. Every day people see police officers in an authoritative role. This program allows the students to see the police officer as a person and a member of his community and school. In the past officers responding to the schools were outsiders and even intruders to their community instead of protectors of the peace. When a fight or disturbance breaks out now, the students call for the officer by name instead of by phone.
A benefit of the Youth Services Program is the rapport and friendships the officers have built with the school administrators and staff. The open dialog between the officers and staff has lent itself to help dispel so many misconceptions about both the police and the school staff. Working together has created a bond where the officers feel as much a part of their school as the students and staff.
The statistical analysis revealed the number of arrests was greater among the ninth and tenth grade students. After the first semester of the second year, the arrest data clearly showed a pattern which needed immediate and long-term attention. The officers began dedicating more time to the ninth and tenth grade areas of their schools, maintaining a high visibility profile. The officers then began visiting more ninth and tenth grade classes and keeping a closer check with the ninth and tenth grade teachers to discuss any problems they may have.
During the second year of the program the officers got together and devised a plan to keep in contact with the youth and to gain contact with the future high school students. The program was a youth camp for area kids. This camp allowed a child to attend at no cost to the family and allowed the child to see parts of the city he may never have had the opportunity to experience. The cooperation between the City of Huntsville, Huntsville Police Department, Huntsville City Schools, and the business community enabled the program to be a success.
With summer programs such as "Youth Camp" officers have a chance to meet future students and equally as important, the students get to meet the officers of their future school. This allows for the student to have at least two friends at his new school on opening day. We believe with programs such as this the number of arrests will decline along with suspensions and expulsions.
In May of 1997, The Huntsville Police Department in a continuing effort to expand pro-active community policing activities, announced that it would expand the Youth Services Program into the middle schools. The expansion was made possible by a 1.5 million dollar grant awarded by the Department of Justice. Police officers will now be active in all levels of a childs education. D.A.R.E. in the elementary and middle schools, Youth Services Officers in the middle and high schools. At the start of the 1998-1999 school year, the City of Huntsville had two police officers in each of its five high schools and five officers who shared their time between ten middle schools.
Sergeant Mike Bundy, Hunstville, Alabama Police Department, (256) 532-7281
The United States Conference of Mayors
J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
Copyright © 1999, US Conference of Mayors, All rights reserved.