Team looks at juveniles |

Team looks at juveniles

by Andy Bourelle

The first action taken by the county’s new problem-solving group at its premier meeting Wednesday was to name itself the Douglas County Community Action Team.

After quickly getting that out of the way, the team went on to discuss and brainstorm solutions for several juvenile issues the county faces.

More than 30 team members attended the meeting at Douglas High School, and the group is made up of a variety of people from the community: members of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, including Sheriff Ron Pierini; members of the district attorney’s office, juvenile probation office and Nevada Highway Patrol; Douglas High School Principal Bev Jeans and several DHS students; and other community members, parents and representatives of other organizations.

More are welcome at the next meeting, scheduled for 9 a.m. May 6 at DHS.

n What happened.

For more than two hours, the members discussed a variety of juvenile problems in Douglas County, focusing mostly on issues resulting from students traveling off campus at lunch.

Among other issues, discussions revolved around traffic accidents, the citation deterrent program, drug and alcohol use, fights and more.

The students on the team – who, at the meeting’s end, received a round of applause and praise from the other members for their input – explained that a small group of juveniles caused a majority of the trouble.

Overall, the students indicated they felt safe in high school.

DCSO Sgt. Stan Lamb asked them how DHS students might react in a situation similar to the March Jonesboro, Ark., murders. In December, a 15-year-old Yerington boy allegedly plotted to murder several people at a school assembly. Other students reported the incident, and the plot was stopped. Nothing was reported in Jonesboro, and four children and a teacher were murdered.

If DHS students were suspicious about something, Lamb asked, would they report it.

“If I heard of somebody having a gun, I would have to say something,” said DHS student Bill Blumenthal.

The other students agreed.

n What is going to happen.

“We’ve identified the problems,” Lamb said near the end of the meeting. “Now what are we going to do about it?”

Although the discussions covered a variety of issues, the Community Action Team decided to break into smaller groups, or “action teams,” to focus on specific areas.

One group – composed of several people, including students and members of the district attorney’s office and juvenile probation – is going to look into the possibility of creating a “peer court.” Teen-agers would comprise the court, where students may be judged for offenses, rather than being required to go to Douglas County District Court.

“I think that would be great,” said DHS Principal Bev Jeans. “It would be really great for them to be dealt with in a court of their peers.”

Juveniles who would not follow the orders of the court, then would be dealt with in Douglas County court.

Another group is focusing on transportation issues at the high school’s lunch time.

Also, the sheriff’s office is looking into the possibility of being able to put a police officer at the high school full time. While the funds currently are not available, DCSO members are looking into the possibility of obtaining grants for the program.

The Community Action Team, including the students, felt the full-time, on-campus officer was a good idea.

The team discussed problems of the crosswalk on Highway 88. At DHS lunch time, students are trying to cross the street while cars from lunch-time traffic also are trying to move down the road, creating numerous problems.

“How we handle that, I don’t know,” said Mike Simon of the Nevada Highway Patrol, “but somebody’s going to get killed there.”

Simon and other members of the group are going to look into solutions to the problem.

The final group formed, the “fast foods action team,” is going to communicate with restaurants students frequent at lunch time.

The smaller groups are to try to solve their specific problems, and their progress will be reported at the next meeting.

n What the team is.

The Community Action Team was formed to identify and try to solve problems facing Douglas County.

As an offshoot of the county’s community-oriented policing philosophy, the team focuses on problems that fit certain criteria:

n it is recurring in nature;

n it affects more than one individual; and

n it involves crime, the fear of crime or the quality of life in the community.

About three weeks ago, the team’s core group traveled to Winnemucca for a three-day training session. There, Jeans, Lamb, Deputy District Attorney Dina Salvucci and other members of the core group learned about community-oriented and problem-solving policing.

“It was excellent training,” Jeans said.

The idea behind community-oriented policing is that open communication between the community and sheriff’s office helps to solve problems proactively rather than having officers simply react to crimes.

Also, the core group members learned to narrow their focus when addressing problems, as they did when breaking into smaller action groups at the meeting.

“If you say, ‘let’s fix the youth problem,’ what can you do?” Salvucci said. “But if we pick one specific area and narrow down our scope, we can find solutions and have success.”

Although the team focused mostly on juvenile issues at its first meeting, any Douglas County problem can be addressed and anyone in the community can be involved. Less than 15 people comprised the core group, while more than 30 attended Wednesday’s meeting and all indicated a desire to remain as permanent members of the group.

No chair or president runs the meetings, and each member is considered equal.

Other community members interested in becoming involved can contact DCSO Lt. Mike Biaggini at 782-6251 for more information.

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