Mayor LaToya Cantrell together with juvenile justice leaders held a press conference on Wednesday to announce new initiatives to combat juvenile crime in New Orleans.
In her statement, Mayor Cantrell acknowledged that there has been an uptick in the amount of juvenile crime, saying, “We are not only being responsive to these issues, but we are working to be proactive and strategic with these issues.”
Summer Success Jobs Program
Office of Youth and Families Direct Emily Wolff pointed out that in spite of the recent increase in juvenile crime, “The juveniles who currently present a hazard to public safety represent a small portion of the youth in the city.” Wolff also pointed out that 39 percent of New Orleans children are currently living in poverty before announcing the Summer Success Jobs Program.
The Summer Success Jobs Program will offer a paid opportunity for 100 youth ages 14-21 who have been arrested within the last 18 months but have been determined to not pose a threat to public safety. These youth will be matched with an engaging job opportunity that will give them the chance to earn a weekly stipend while learning important job skills as an alternative to detention.
New Orleans Police Department Superintendent Shaun Ferguson also addressed the recent rise in juvenile crime, saying:
“This is an issue that we all take very seriously. The last thing the men and women of the NOPD want to do is arrest our youth again, again, and again. But for too long in 2019 thus far, this is exactly what we have been doing. Kids in every neighborhood have been breaking into cars, they have been stealing cars, and they have been doing much more than that.
“We all know the vast majority of our kids are not responsible for these criminal acts, but there are a few.”
A citywide curfew for children under the age of 17 will begin on Monday, June 3rd and run through August 31:
- Thursday through Sunday – 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.
- Friday through Saturday – 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.
- In the French Quarter, the curfew is 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. year round.
Teenagers who are out after curfew who do not have a place to go will be taken to Covenant House, which will serve as a curfew center where they can receive food, counseling, and other services. Children under the age of 10 who are out after curfew without a parent or guardian will be placed in the custody of the Department of Children and Family Services.
If a teenager is picked up by NOPD after curfew three times, a summons will be issued to the parent or guardian for them to appear in court.
Finally, during a special meeting, the judges of Orleans Parish Juvenile Court agreed unanimously today that any juvenile arrested on charges that pose a risk to public safety will be detained.
This new policy will be instituted immediately and uses a risk-assessment tool as well as judicial discretion to determine whether a juvenile may present a risk of danger to the public.
“All youth charged with offenses that pose a risk to public safety will be held pending a probable cause hearing before a juvenile judge and will be retained for trauma screening, verification of school attendance, and adequate housing, mentoring, participation in pro-social activities, job training, counseling, after-school and summer activities, as well as other appropriate referrals that meet the individual needs of the youth, in order to meet the court’s statutory obligation to protect both public safety and the safety of individual juveniles.”
In a statement, the judges also pointed out that they believe “detention is not the solution,” and that “In order to prevent further escalation into the criminal justice system, courts need options such as electronic monitoring, pro-social community-based activities that keep kids off the streets and out of trouble, respite placement, and mentoring programs.”
NORDC, NOPL Programs
Seemingly in answer to those comments, officials from the New Orleans Recreational Development Commission (NORDC) and the New Orleans Public Libraries (NOPL) took the podium to remind residents that there are still spaces available both in the programs offered by NORDC and the NOPL.
“We cannot accept the rhetoric that there is nothing for our children to do in the city of New Orleans,” said Mayor Cantrell.
Jenn Bentley is a writer and editor originally from Cadiz, Kentucky. Her writing has been featured in publications such as Examiner.com, The High Tech Society, FansShare, Yahoo News, and others. When she’s not writing or editing, Jenn spends her time raising money for Extra Life and advocating for autism awareness.