Counties suspend use of juvenile work crews
By SANDRA CHEREB
Associated Press Writer
RENO, Nev. (AP) – Clark County and several rural counties suspended use of juvenile road cleanup crews after a weekend crash killed six teenagers in Las Vegas.
Carson City has suspended work details along Highway 50, Highway 395 and other roads with speed limits of higher than 45 mph.
Carson’s Chief Juvenile Probation Officer Bill Lewis announced that all work program policies will be reviewed this weekend as a result of the Las Vegas tragedy.
Lewis said he is set to meet with Las Vegas officials about the incident today.
”The work program has been put on hold. We’re forming a task force to make sure safety measures are in place,” Doug Bradford, Clark County spokesman, said Tuesday.
”We’re looking for alternatives we can use to provide additional safety measures.”
Bradford said there’s a possibility the program could be scrapped.
Five members of a juvenile work crew died Sunday when a Ford minivan driven by an Arizona woman went off Interstate 15 and slammed into a cluster of workers. A sixth victim died Monday at a Las Vegas hospital.
All were under court order to pick up trash for minor offenses.
Jessica Williams, 20, of Littlefield, Ariz., was booked into the Clark County Detention Center on suspicion of felony driving under the influence, reckless driving and drug-related charges.
Authorities say a van driven by Williams ran off Interstate 15 north of Las Vegas on Sunday, plowing into a group of teenagers on a work crew. Six youngsters, ages 14-16, were killed and a seventh was injured.
Clark County District Attorney Stewart Bell said Tuesday that his office is considering adding manslaughter charges to those that will be filed against Williams, a dancer at the Little Darlings nightclub.
Juvenile work crews also were suspended in Douglas, Humboldt, Pershing and Lander counties, and Washoe County’s road detail and the state’s Adopt-a-Highway program are getting increased scrutiny.
Highway cleanups will continue in Elko County, which has not had any similar accidents, though officials said roadside trash projects are not the main focus of the youth offender program.
”We might refine it but we wouldn’t want to curtail it,” said Nolan Barnum, assistant chief of Elko County’s juvenile probation department. ”It’s an extremely good program.
”They do cleanup or paint or fix things up. They work with senior citizens,” he said. ”When we have kids out on the road, it is usually a last resort.”
Lyon County also is continuing the work.
”Actions like this make everyone look hard at what they are doing, but we work secondary roads, which have a much lighter traffic road,” said Chuck Steele, a Lyon County juvenile probation official.
Douglas County ordered its youth cleanup program suspended along major roadways Monday. Now young offenders will clean up greenbelts and illegal dumpsites in the sagebrush instead of working alongside roads, said Michael Doyle, chief deputy juvenile probation officer.
Fernando Serrano, chief juvenile probation officer for Humboldt, Lander and Pershing counties, said roadside cleanups for juvenile offenders in the tri-county region were suspended indefinitely.
Other work projects in parks, schools and senior citizen centers will continue.
”It’s really a valuable asset to the community,” Serrano said. Last year, 546 juveniles did time on a work crew and performed more than 13,000 hours of community service, he said.
Southern Nevada youngsters worked 30,352 hours of community service in 1999 to offset fines, according to Clark County program spokeswoman Margy Purdue. Statewide figures were unavailable.
Washoe County will review its program and hopes to make a decision by the end of the week, said Leonard Pugh, director of juvenile services.
Scott Magruder, spokesman for the Nevada Department of Transportation, said the state will review its Adopt-A-Highway program, in which groups ”adopt” stretches of major highways.
The state provides hats, vests, bags and a sign marking the two-mile stretch of highway the group adopts.
The state has considered dropping or modifying the program for several years because fewer than half of the groups are regularly cleaning along the highway.
The program does not adopt out stretches of Highway 395 or Interstate 80 through Reno or Sparks, he said, adding that the policy could be changed to include only more remote stretches of state highways.
”The problem is the high-volume, high-speed roads are the ones that need the most cleaning,” Magruder said.