JPO chief Scott Cook says crime is declining
Despite higher numbers of juveniles being arrested and more probation violations, Juvenile Probation Office Director Scott Cook feels positive about the direction his department is headed.
Cook said there were more juvenile arrests in 1999, but the percentage of juvenile crime is actually down because the population of adolescents in Douglas County is up.
Cook defines adolescents as students in 7th-12th grades, the teen-age population his office usually deals with.
“Right now, there is a kind of bubble moving through the school district. The number of adolescents is continuing to grow and will continue for another two years. Then it will start declining, so even though the number of incidents increased, the percentage decreased slightly,” Cook said.
He also said he was happy with the number of probation violations, even though it went up in 1999.
“In my mind, that is kind of good. That reflects the level of supervision. My probation officers are out there sitting on top of their kids,” Cook said.
He said probation violations are usually minor things like not coming in by curfew or not going to school. He explained if the probation violation is a new crime, it is counted as such and not as a probation violation.
Cook said one of the continuing problems in Douglas County is underage alcohol use. He said it will continue to be a problem as long as there are adults who are too accepting of that behavior.
In 1999, 157 juveniles were arrested for underage drinking.
“What I’m hearing from the school counselors is the (students) feel like their parents don’t care if they drink or don’t care what they’re doing. The whole community doesn’t understand the gravity of the situation and how related to other things, like date rape, underage drinking is,” he said.
The number of juveniles arrested for drug related offenses is not as high, but still significant. In 1999, 82 drug-related arrests were made. Forty-three of those were possession or use of marijuana and six were use of methamphetamine.
Cook said the opening of Silver Springs Youth Facility will provide Douglas County another option to help drug-addicted teen-agers.
Currently, he said, students are evaluated by a counselor to determine the level of addiction and are ordered to do counseling based on that evaluation. Also, while they are on probation, they are randomly – but regularly – tested for drug use.
“We do a lot of drug testing. If the test is positive, they get recharged with a new crime,” Cook said. “We steer them toward a program. It will be a lot easier when Silver Springs comes on-line.”
The treatment center will have a full-time counseling program that also will be implemented at China Spring Youth Camp, Cook said, and a psychologist will be on hand.
With the opening of Silver Springs and of the girl’s section of China Spring, Aurora Pines, Cook said he expects the county’s already low commitment rate to state youth centers to fall even more.
Douglas County sent three teen-agers to state institutions in 1999 and seven teen-agers to China Spring.
Cook attributed Douglas County’s low numbers to the programs in place through JPO.
Last year, 315 juveniles completed 1,972 hours of community service by cleaning up trash on the side of highways. The program was put on hold to study its safety after a drunk driver killed juveniles who were part of a similar work crew in Clark County.
However, Cook said, the program continued, but moved the work crews to the green belts in the Ranchos and illegal dump sites in the Pine Nut Mountains.
He said the program will probably be moving back to the highways soon.
“It was decided we do things pretty good. We will need some equipment upgrades and a lot of informal safety policies need to be put into writing. When we get those things done, assuming the county approves it, we will go back to doing clean-up on the roads,” Cook said.
Cook also gave credit to Bruno Bielat, the clinical psychologist who runs counseling groups, and Shaunda Vasey who runs the Outdoor Intervention Program.
“I think having Bruno here has been very good. He helps kids a lot. He does an awful lot of diversion,” Cook said. “I’m real pleased with that wilderness program. Not only has (Shaunda) really increased the number of kids taken into the outdoors, she is currently working on her master’s degree in marriage and family counseling and uses a lot of those skills on the trips. It is really a lot more focused on counseling.”