Davenport leaders will launch an effort in the new year to keep children and teenagers out of court and out of jail. Schools and nonprofits are working with city government to create a Juvenile Assessment Center, the first of its kind in Iowa.
Sarah Ott, assistant to the Davenport City Administrator, says it aims to solve common problems in juvenile cases, like what’s known as “delayed accountability.”
“A juvenile who has committed a crime say in January, but they’re not coming before a judge until March or April, they can think in February, ‘Huh, I’m off scot free,’ right? I haven’t had to talk to anybody about the repercussions of my actions yet…'” Ott says. “So, we’re trying to close that gap.”
The Quad Cities has been plagued in recent months by an increase in juvenile gang activity, including a rash of car thefts committed by kids as young as 12. Ott says the juvenile assessment center would take a two-pronged approach.
“You have a law enforcement component where you are able to provide quick, holistic assessment of youth after they are arrested to expedite the court process and also to reduce the burden on law enforcement,” Ott says. “Law enforcement can then turn over the juveniles they’re arresting to this assessment center and then they can get back on the streets quicker.”
The center would work to prevent children and teenagers from entering the court system by identifying their needs and connecting them with appropriate organizations and resources.
The “community collaborative” studying the center will include leadership from Scott County Kids and representatives from cities, police and health departments, school districts and nonprofits.
Some Davenport officials have already visited a juvenile assessment center in Colorado.
(Thanks to Michelle O’Neill, WVIK, Rock Island)