Quite a return

Published 12:38 am Wednesday, May 9, 2007

By Staff
When Beaufort County commissioners voted this week to approve funds for Juvenile Crime Prevention Council programs, they did so unanimously and with little discussion. That’s because they know they’re getting quite a return on a relatively small investment.
Commissioners agreed to a $15,710 county match that would then allow the JCPC programs the opportunity to receive $157,100 in grants from other sources. And it’s money that won’t go to waste.
JCPC programs are aimed at children who are among the most likely to become troubled teens and troubled teens who are at “elevated risks” to become criminals, according to council literature The idea is to put children on positive paths early enough so they won’t become the next set of inmates in the Beaufort County jail.
A poor judgment call should not doom a child to being lumped into the same category with hardened criminals. The county JCPC programs primarily serve first-time offenders. They serve children who have moderate to serious behavior problems when in school, offering them options to keep learning.
It’s in part because of JCPC that there are programs such as Beaufort County Teen Court, which is offered to first-time teenage offenders. Offenders who admit their guilt may be judged and sentenced by their student peers. Teen Court is “a great opportunity to have a jury trial” and an alternative to the juvenile-justice system, according to coordinator Kimberly Corey.
Teenagers may be tried on charges such as disorderly conduct, shoplifting, larceny or possession of tobacco.
Adult volunteers, including Assistant District Attorney Tom Anglim, help conduct the court proceedings. The hope is that “positive peer pressure” will help troubled teens change their ways, while also helping them avoid the stigmas that can come with having criminal records.
JCPC also includes the BMB Shelter, which has already served nine Beaufort County children this year, according to director Pamela Moore-Hardison. The shelter provides a safe place for children to reside for up to 90 days. That may not seem like much, but 90 days of good direction in a family oriented environment can make a world of difference to a child who isn’t used to such treatment.
Children who come to the shelter may come from backgrounds of abuse or neglect. They may also display “delinquent behaviors,” according to the shelter’s Web site. The shelter exists to provide “preventive and corrective” measures. Those measures, in turn, often keep them out of the court system later in life. The shelter will soon be able to offer a “credit-recovery program” so students may make up the courses they might have failed in traditional schools.
There are countless other programs that are linked to the county’s youth-crime prevention council. They include a basketball camp with representatives from East Carolina University and the Purpose of God Annex, which provides recreation, after-school programs and mentoring services for at-risk students.
There’s a reason that County Manager Paul Spruill called the JCPC funding a “noncontroversial item.” It’s because the commissioners know they get more than a fair return — an excellent return — on the money they invest in the program.