Walchak’s IACP legacy:
In the face of rising rates of juvenile violence, local law enforcement agencies nationwide would do well to form partnerships with their governments, private citizens and businesses and convene “summits” to discuss goals and strategies to deal with the burgeoning problem, according to a new report by the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
“Youth Violence in America: Recommendations from the IACP Summit” was based on ideas offered during a two-day meeting convened last April by the IACP, at which more than 80 participants, including doctors, teachers, law enforcement officials and attorneys, examined critical questions about youth violence.
The report predicts that despite the current drop in overall crime nationwide, rates of serious crime and the use of deadly force by youthful offenders will increase greatly in coming years. “No other conclusion can be risked,” the report asserts.
“America should expect an ever-increasing frequency of juvenile crime, much of it violent, and much of it, perhaps, more deadly than at present,” the report stated, citing loss of community, decline in morals, ethics and civility, family breakdown, growing fear of victimization, hopelessness among youth, absence of swift and sure justice and the proliferation of guns and drugs as factors contributing to the increase.
Police Chief David Walchak of Concord, N.H., had made the youth violence summit a centerpiece of his one-year term as IACP president, which ended in late October [LEN, Nov. 15, 1995]. He said the gloomy assessment about youth crime, which has been long-predicted by the nation’s leading criminologists and sociologists, did not dissuade summit participants from taking a hard look at the problem.
Participants “did not fall prey to cynical rhetoric about the growth of youth violence and the inability of U.S. citizens to respond,” Walchak said. “Rather, they set forth an aggressive, yet optimistic, set of strategies.”
The summit participants mapped out a primary role for law enforcement in combating youth crime, Walchak noted. “What this means is that law enforcement must play a leadership role in this effort but will not be able to respond effectively to the problem alone. The complexities associated will require a balanced, comprehensive approach that requires community-wide involvement.”
The report’s recommendations for strategies to fight the problem focused on 10 major policy areas, including “strengthening the family, mobilizing the schools, repositioning law enforcement, recapturing the schools, treating youth violence as an epidemic, strengthening the delivery of justice and multi-agency partnerships, intensifying public education, replicating programs that work, and improving information-sharing.”
To “reposition law enforcement,” the report recommended:
¶ Augmenting or reprioritizing resources to increase the number of youth service, school resource, Drug Abuse Resistance Education, and Gang Resistance Education and Training programs;
¶ Increasing Federal support to police agencies for youth violence-reduction programs and technology;
¶ Increasing the number of trained and equipped community policing officers;
¶ Expanding the role of school resource officers to enhance the level and range of non-traditional in-school services;
¶ Promoting aggressive investigation of all violent crimes and arrest and detention of violent youthful offenders;
¶ Recognizing and rewarding non-traditional police performance to balance officer perceptions on the importance of youth violence prevention and enforcement activities;
¶ Expanding and updating training for school resource and youth officers to reflect contemporary issues, current needs and to teach anger/violence-reduction techniques;
¶ Retraining police officers to approach potentially violent confrontations with youth more effectively;
¶ Creating resource manuals that reference community/government youth programs to support community policing officers;
¶ Augmenting police technology, including PCs, laptops, crime-analysis software and gun-tracing centers, to enable police to anticipate and interdict youth violence;
¶ Conducting research to continue to identify and evaluate police programs for youth that are effective.