With the latest trends in juvenile crime re-shaped by things like social networking, new school buildings in Warren, and even more and more grandparents raising kids, police and juvenile court probation officers say they are taking a different approach.
For more than a year, Trumbull County juvenile probation officers Chuck Martin and Bob Rowlands have teamed up with police in different jurisdictions while sometimes working nights and weekends to try and head off teen crime before it starts. The two probation officers are making their rounds at downtown Warren festivals, planning to hit the Mount Carmel Festival in Niles next month, and looking ahead to the Trumbull County Fair.
Their goal: checking for kids who might be named in warrants or others breaking curfew. They'll be looking for underaged drinking and who the young probationeers are running with.
Police in Niles also say they will be more aggressive this summer with juvenile crime, including curfew violations.
Niles police Chief Rob Hinton said vandalism and other property damage committed by juveniles recently has led to his plans to crack down on curfew violations as a way of perhaps cutting down on the vandalism.
He noted that parents and guardians can be held legally responsible if their child breaks curfew. Hinton said they will face charges as well.
Niles' curfew ordinance states teens 14 and under must be indoors by 10 p.m. on weeknights and 11 p.m. on weekends.
Those 15 to 17 must be indoors by 11 p.m. on weeknights and midnight on weekends.
Hinton said juveniles caught violating curfew will be cited into juvenile court. He said the department will have a zero tolerance policy on curfew this summer.
Exceptions include if a juvenile is working or can prove there was a family emergency. He said the juvenile must have a letter signed by their guardian stating what the emergency is.
The increased patrols involving county officials developed in Warren during a meeting with juvenile court officials, school officials and police more than a year ago.
''At the time there seemed to be a huge problem with the kids, and school was about to let out for the year last year. They held this pow wow and decided to take a proactive approach to things. I think it prevented a lot of problems, even though I can't prove it,'' said Warren Detective Mike Currington. ''It took the steam out of a lot of kids.''
''After the meeting with school officials we decided to show more of a presence outside of the schools and the court. We wanted to have more of an impact,'' said Family Court Judge Richard James.
The judge said the program allows Martin and Rowlands to make sure the youths on probation are complying with the rules. ''But it also might be an eye opener for a younger brother or sister, or maybe someone who hasn't slipped up just yet,'' James said. ''I've got to say the probation officers really took the initiative here.''
Currington and lately Warren Detective John Greaver have been supplying the backup for Martin and Rowlands.
''The police actually have the enforcement power. But we know who we have on probation from working in the court. It allows us to network with the kids and sometimes just have a conversation outside of the typical meetings we have with the kids in our office,'' said Martin, who has worked in the juvenile court system for more than 16 years and as a probation officer for more than six years.
Martin said he sometimes drives in the cruiser with the detectives, hitting troubled areas that are targeted high-enforcement zones.
''We want to let them know we're here. But we want to strengthen the ties too,'' Martin said. ''It's all about deter and divert as well as intervention and prevention,'' he said.
As one of seven juvenile probation officers, Martin has between 40 and 50 offenders assigned to him. They check in with him periodically.
''Our probation officers are getting more and more kids since DYS (Ohio's Department of Youth Services) has made it clear they want to lower the population in the state facilities,'' said Monte Horton, juvenile court magistrate. The first-time, non-violent offenders, are normally channeled through a diversion program in which any juvenile criminal record can be wiped clean if there are no infractions over a period of time.
Stacy Ziska, chief probation officer, said as a community-based program the tactic has made an impact. ''The community and the schools have been receptive to the idea,'' she said.