Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Report: Closure of OPD's Juvenile Intake Desk Was a Big Mistake

By Kathleen Richards
Tue, Sep 18, 2007 at 12:14 AM

As the Express reported in November, the 2005 closure of the Oakland Police Department's Juvenile Intake Desk resulted in a drastic reduction in juvenile arrests and referrals to detention alternatives. It also led to an attitude of disengagement among officers toward juvenile crime, and the loss of juvenile case files even while juvenile crime was on the rise. Police Chief Wayne Tucker closed the 24-7 juvenile processing unit so save money, partly because the desk -- which dated back to the '60s and once employed as many as sixty people -- didn't have much of a staff left.

Well, after intense lobbying from Lt. Kevin Wiley of the Youth and Family Services Division, the department reinstated its juvenile desk in March with one sergeant and five officers. A new report prepared by Wiley corroborates just how sorely missed the desk was. Among his findings:

  • Missing persons cases were not processed and/or followed-up in a timely fashion, resulting in a near doubling of the Missing Persons Unit caseload.
  • Nearly nine thousand juvenile records were thrown away.
  • Without help in screening juveniles, patrol officers opted to send offenders to Juvenile Hall or simply release them without evaluation or follow-up.
  • Many minor offenses went unrecorded and, as a result, some offenders were given second chances when they didn't deserve them.
  • Youth issues weren't a priority for OPD during the desk's closure.
  • Since it has reopened, the city has seen a more than four-fold spike in juvenile arrests - from 16 in February to 67 in April.


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