The number of juvenile crimes reported to Carson City's Juvenile Probation Department dropped by almost 21 percent in 1999.
That represents the city's first overall decrease since 1995 and the only significant drop in the last eight years. Chief Juvenile Probation Officer Bill Lewis gives part of the credit to new and improved programs in the juvenile criminal justice system.
"Preventative efforts in Carson City are moving forward with things like the Boys & Girls Club, the Ron Woods Family Resource Center and Hispanic Services," he said. " But our community needs to remain concerned, stay focused and stay involved if we are to continue to see a decline in juvenile referrals."
In 1998, the department, which serves both Carson City and Storey County, received a total of 2,286 referrals for a variety of delinquent acts ranging from burglary to runaways. That figure fell to 1,808 for 1999, a decrease of 20.9 percent.
The number of individuals referred to the department also declined from 941 to 814, a 13 percent drop. The number of juveniles had peaked at 1,025 in 1997.
Truancy, drug and alcohol, and vandalism-related crimes saw some of the greatest improvements when compared with the previous year.
Sixty truancies were reported in 1998, dropping to 14 in 1999. The difference is largely attributed to referrals of juveniles to out-of-court facilities. Through counseling and monitoring, parents and children are coached together and directed to educational and parenting services previously unavailable.
Drug and alcohol referrals were down 131, from 445 in 1998 to 314 last year. Vandalism dropped from 76 to 44 cases.
In the last few years, the department has shifted its operation to become increasingly aware of families. Lewis attributes some of the success to efforts such as counseling through the department's New Beginnings and Positive Horizons programs.
Juvenile Probation Officer Ian Curley explained that juvenile criminals, who mostly have committed felonies, are guided through programs specialized for their work, school and family needs.
"After-school supervision where kids stay until 8 p.m. is one way," he said. "You teach kids things like time management and you set goals with them and their families."
Additionally, "high-risk youths" can be placed in programs like a Monday through Thursday course that emphasizes academics. Children with drug or alcohol-related convictions can take advantage of a life skills and substance abuse class on Saturday mornings. Drug testing is mandatory, Curley said.
An increased emphasis is being placed on programs to reform Latino juvenile delinquents. Spanish language classes and tutoring teaches parents and their children about laws in the United States, some of which might come as a shock to immigrants.
Probation Officer Efren Mendoza works with Spanish-speaking families referred by the courts. He participated in a Hispanic Services class last Saturday where close to 100 people showed up. "We just want to make them aware of the schools, truancy laws and our programs," he said.