Juvenile crime is at an all-time high in the Quad-Cities. Unfortunately, however, how juvenile crime is handled in the Quad-Cities isn’t the most proactive and solution-focused. Juvenile justice often focuses on juveniles after they have committed crimes rather than providing an intervention before the crime is ever committed.

In our community, we know that poverty, trauma and lack of resources are high indicators of whether a youngster will fall through the cracks.

I was once a young person in the juvenile justice system since the age of 12. During that time, I was placed on probation, forced to participate in “scared straight” programs, placed in juvenile detention centers, and experienced other forms of “get tough on crime legislation,” that were ineffective

As a result of my experience, I must say that I have developed a bit of insight about the juvenile justice problem. This insight allows me to work in the same facilities I was once housed in as a juvenile, where I work alongside others that once worked with me as a youth.

The current reactive approach to crime has failed youth. Juvenile court services, school personnel, local trauma informed care committees, family/community members, and city officials tend to operate in a silo when looking at juvenile crime. This incoherence creates a lack of cooperation amongst the groups and a lack of oversight for juvenile court services.

I have partnered with juvenile justice experts and professionals at the local, state and national level to create a mapping system that will follow, find and figure out the current infrastructure that creates fiduciary responsibilities at every point in the system.

The information collected will be used to establish a committee composed of representatives from the aforementioned groups. This will allow for community members to be educated, informed, involved and most importantly empowered. Community members often look for answers but come up with none. I believe that our community members would be more vocal and active if they knew their voices mattered in tackling juvenile crime issue in the Quad-Cities.

Numerous community-based programs are defunded by juvenile court services with no explanations, but with community oversight they will be able to work cooperatively to achieve effective solutions. Most recently, I supervised a program for two years that specifically targeted youth arrested and convicted for many of the car thefts and shootings that plagues our community. This program was able to offer interventions, community supervision and education for youth and offer assistance to their families. The juvenile court services chose to not renew a contract with this program and as a result these young adults are now in our community and often forgotten about until they enter a juvenile facility after committing more crimes.

In my years of working as a professional in the local juvenile justice system I have watched this happen multiple times with community-based programs and there never is any explanations to the community members that are being served for the reason of the closures. These families have voiced their frustration and disempowerment to me time and time again and has led me to this next endeavor of change in our community.

Jeff Wallace has studied the effects of the criminal justice system's effects on at-risk youth, first as one and then through undergraduate and graduate degrees in Criminal Justice. He is currently working on PhD in Criminal Justice Administration.