The City of Opelousas announced two new initiatives aimed at decreasing juvenile crime and delinquency.
The two programs include the Opelousas Police Department Cops That Care (CTC) and the St. Landry Parish Juvenile Assessment Program (JAP).
Chief Martin McLendon says CTC will provide “consistent structured activities for youth at risk of detention and involvement in the criminal justice system.”
He explains that the mission of CTC is to strengthen the community by improving relationships with police, providing positive activities for youth with adults, and encouraging youth to abandon destructive lifestyles while using an evidence-based mentoring model.
Through the program, kids and teens that have had multiple run-ins with law enforcement will be matched with an officer and will participate in weekly activities designed to improve social functioning.
They will receive incentives for positive outcomes that include improved school performance and reduced negative behaviors.
“Our kids need this” says McLendon, “My department is fully committed to doing all that we can to help our youth become successful adults.”
The JAP will be housed in Opelousas City Court, where Judge Vanessa Harris presides.
“Since my judgeship began in 2009, I have availed a continuum of court-based programs to curtail delinquent behavior among our youth,” said the judge.
“This collaborative effort with the assessment program will build on overall service delivery and allow arrested juveniles who live within the city of Opelousas and Ward One of St. Landry Parish comprehensive assessments to identify risks and needs”, added Harris.
Opelousas Mayor Julius Alsandor stated, “Identifying the root causes of delinquent behaviors of our youth will allow us to more accurately develop a comprehensive system of programs and services in our City that will improve everyone’s quality of life.”
He goes on to explain, “The core traditional values of respect, honor, love, family, and community are what shape the history of Opelousas. We are committed to teaching those values to our children but first, we need to know what drives their delinquent behavior.”
Janel Dugas, Program Consultant for the initiatives, says, “With this project one of our main goals is to maximize existing community resources to ensure that our kids are receiving the right services at the right time in order to assist them to realize their full potential.”
She adds, “With all of our community service providers, judiciary, and law enforcement agencies operating in a spirit of collaboration, these initiatives will be successful, and our entire community will benefit.”
Referrals for these programs will come from law enforcement and the judiciary and will include youth from the City of Opelousas and Ward One of St. Landry Parish.
Oversight for this program will be provided by the St. Landry Children and Youth Services (CYS) Planning Board and an advisory board of Opelousas community members.
These initiatives are being made possible with funding by the Louisiana Office of Juvenile Justice.