Best Practices

 

CITY OF FORT MYERS
Mayor Wilbur C. Smith III

Delinquent Youth Supervision

In 1990 juvenile arrests in the City of Fort Myers had reached a new high. Arrest increases placed additional demands on agencies throughout the juvenile justice system. In 1992 the office of Juvenile Delinquency was experiencing extreme overcrowding in its local post arrest detention facility. The agency had funds available to employ an enhanced home detention program, but not enough to employ required personnel.

The Fort Myers City Council, led by Mayor Wilbur C. Smith III, entered into contractual agreement with the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services to provide home detention services for delinquent youth from the juvenile detention center by officers of the police department. The Delinquent Youth Supervision Program features our police department's first departure from traditional law enforcement. Police department staff, guided by Police Chief Donna L. Hansen, developed the program release criteria. To qualify, program youth had to reside within the city; the release had to be agreed upon by the offender, parent(s) or guardian, presiding judge, prosecutor, defense attorney, the offender's delinquency counselor, and the police department; and the offender could not be a transfer candidate into the adult system. Youth accepted into the program are required to remain at home unless they are accompanied by a parent, are attending school, or are permitted to work by their presiding judge. Violation of the conditions of release will result in the immediate return to the detention center.

A designated officer screens detained juvenile offenders at the detention facility on a daily basis and coordinates activities performed by officers monitoring program youth. Patrol supervisors, on three shifts, (morning, afternoon, and evening), select and assign patrol of officers to conduct program youth monitoring activities. Program youth are checked at their homes prior to school and after school by the morning and evening patrol officers. During the visit officers obtain a thumbprint from the program youth on a program contact sheet to verify contact. In most cases youth are waiting with thumbs up for officers. In one case the evening check was not made with a youth. Concerned, the youth reported the incident to the morning officer. The officers complete a screening of the family and if needs are identified referrals are made to the appropriate service agency. Afternoon officers contact schools that program youth attend to verify attendance.

The program is in its third year and has been expanded to serve youth who are awaiting placement in a commitment program and youth who require intensive community control. During the first six months of this fiscal year patrol officers documented over 2, 700 contacts with 26 youths in the program.

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Delinquent Youth Intervention

The Delinquent Youth Intervention Program is a multi-agency comprehensive, cooperative information and case management process for local police, prosecutors, schools, judicial and social service agencies. DYIP enables the juvenile justice and criminal justice system to focus informed additional attention on juveniles who repeatedly commit criminal offenses, with particular attention given to providing relevant and complete case information for more informed dispositional and sentencing decisions.

DYIP was established through a partnership with the Fort Myers Police Department, Cape Coral Police Department, Lee County Port Authority Police Department, State Attorney's Office, the School District of Lee County, and the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice. The program is funded through the Community Juvenile Justice Partnership program maintained by the Florida Auto Theft Prevention Authority. The Program Unit and members are housed in the State Attorney's office located in the Lee County Criminal Justice Complex.

In 1993, 1,697, or 67 percent, of the juvenile offenders arrested in Lee County were repeat offenders. Repeat juvenile offenders do not consider their crimes all that bad because, after all, the authorities never really did anything about them. They find out that no matter what they do, the system hardly notices or does anything about it. They have been negatively reinforced to continue bad conduct. The offender almost always displayed very aggressive traits early on that signaled trouble, but the system did not communicate within its own branches about those signals.

DYIP focuses on those juvenile offenders who have been arrested on three or more occasions or for a serious criminal violation. Legal barriers regulating the sharing of juvenile information have been eliminated through the creation and use of a sharing of information consent release form. Arrested offenders and their families are screened for basic needs shortly after arrest. Referrals to community service agencies are made if necessary. Program Unit members collect offender information from schools, criminal justice agencies, juvenile justice agencies, mental health agencies and community service agencies. The information is compiled and included in dispositional and sentencing decisions.

During the first six months of this project year (beginning July 1994) 983 juvenile offenders have been reviewed, 305 have met DYIP program criteria. 295 referrals have been made for offenders and family members to community service agencies, and 214 sharing-of-information release forms have been signed by parents of program youth.

Contact: Office of the Mayor, (813) 332-6600

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