Letter to the Editor

Program targets juveniles

To the editor:

The story on shoplifting was incomplete. About one-quarter of the stealing offenses that occur are committed by juveniles.

Dr. John Wade was right. Some juveniles see this as a right of passage. I have seen as many children encouraged by relatives to steal as I have by their peers. I recall with some pleasure the times our police have filed charges for endangering the welfare of a minor when parents have been fleecing businesses by using their children to grab the goods.

Our juvenile division, through an agreement with New Vision Inc., runs each offender through a stealing diversion program that includes the parents. They are given information regarding the cost of stealing. Counselors discuss how to resist peer pressure. And parents and child meet with counselors to discuss any underlying problems such as drug and alcohol issues or emotional problems.

The cost of this program is billed to the parents with an opportunity for the child to work in our community-service restitution project.

In addition, each child is brought to the juvenile detention center where, in 99 percent of the cases, they are held overnight until the police report is available and where further drug, alcohol and psychological screenings are completed.

Our statistics show that 90 percent of the youths receiving this treatment are not rearrested for stealing. I will leave it to the criminal justice experts to decide whether they are cured or just steal smarter after we finish with them.


Juvenile Officer

32nd Judicial Circuit

Cape Girardeau