Monroe County tries 'distracting' young people accused of crimes
A spike in crime by minors in Rochester has moved Monroe County to launch an initiative designed to keep juveniles accused of crimes busy and productive while they await their day in court.
The initiative, known as the Juvenile Enhanced Diversion Stabilization program, or JEDS, has county probation officers intervening in the lives of young people accused of crimes and who are free until their court date. The span of time between a young person being arrested and appearing in court can be weeks.
County Executive Adam Bello said the delay could lead to the minor returning to the streets and getting into mischief, and that JEDS aimed to “close the gaps in the state legal system” and “break up the cycle of criminal activity by juveniles.”
Probation officers connect with the youngster and their families and urge them to take advantage of services intended to keep the minor on the straight and narrow. Services include mental health and addiction counseling, re-enrolling in school, and activities meant to keep juveniles distracted and from interacting with troublesome friends.
“There has to be accountability and consequences for these unlawful and harmful actions,” Bello said during a news conference at the County Office Building. “There has to be a disruption in criminal activity committed by our young residents.”
Bello announced the program Thursday, a day after three teenagers were shot in southwest Rochester.
Police said the teenagers — a 13-year-old girl and two boys, ages 13 and 17 — were allegedly riding in a stolen car that crashed into another vehicle when the gunfire erupted. Their injuries were believed to not be life threatening.
The JEDS program has been around for a month and served 34 juveniles, according to the county. In that time, Bello said, one participant was arrested for another crime.
The county could not provide data on how many juveniles who are arrested and awaiting a court date are arrested for another crime in the interim.
Probation officers cannot legally compel youngsters and their families to participate in the program.
Earlier in the day, Mayor Malik Evans railed against the juvenile justice system for being too lenient.
"If we are going to release people, if we're going to release juveniles, we have to mandate that they go to school, that they get a job, that they go to a job, that they do certain things that allow them to stay out of trouble,” he said.