October 1, 2010 > Juvenile call-in
By Shavon Walker
Union City's Youth Violence Prevention and Intervention Program held its second juvenile call-in at the Holly Center on September 16. The meeting was scheduled for the evening to allow juveniles to attend with their parents.
A juvenile call-in identifies minors on probation and requires them to attend a meeting. The goal is to keep them away from negative behavior, such as gang violence and other crimes, and prevent them from becoming adult offenders. Past adult call-ins have been organized easily and more often but juvenile call-ins are fairly new because rights to privacy and parental consent are much more difficult issues to manage for juveniles. The procedure, however, is generally the same.
Union City Police Chief Greg Stewart opened the call-in, informing the participants that they had been identified and asked to attend because of their affiliations and that the violence needs to stop.
"You'll be given some opportunities tonight. You're young and have your whole life ahead of you. You don't want to go down a road where you can't turn back," he said. "I hope you listen and avail yourself of those opportunities."
The federal district attorney and a representative from probation also spoke briefly, warning the participants of the consequences of poor choices.
"If you're arrested at the federal level, you don't get to stay in California," the district attorney pointed out. "You can be sent to another state. Yes, not many juveniles are sentenced at the federal level but that is a chance you won't want to take."
Next, a community member took the floor. She held a photo of her son aloft, telling the participants he was shot to death at a party when he was aged 17. As she related her story, she looked into the eyes of each youth.
"I wake up each day and realize I don't have to get him out of bed because he'll never wake up again. We need to stop the killing. Don't make your mothers suffer the way I have," she concluded.
Kevin Grant, motivational speaker, made a point of showing the participants who and what they would be fighting when they go to court. He reminded the youths that probation was the first department to be notified if they commit a crime. He then asked all police officers in the room, as well as Chief Stewart, to stand by the probation officer. The participants had not realized officers were also in the audience. The police and probation officers then stood behind the district attorney.
"Look at this. Look at all of these people. Their job is to make sure you don't cause any more trouble," he said.
"These are hard working women," Grant said of the mothers, who were present, after asking them to raise their hands. "They don't want to see you behind bars but if law enforcement gets their hands on you, there's nothing they can do about it. Think about the mother who lost her son. Think about what she must go through every morning. That could be your mother. Please, guys, like she said, don't put your mothers through that."
When Grant finished speaking, he left the room with the police officers. Youth and Family Services then conducted the second half of the call-in, introducing themselves and offering services such as job placement and adult school. All the participants availed themselves of the services offered.
There was a great deal of positive feedback about the program from the parents and the youths. Additional youth call-ins are being planned for the future.