CITY OF NEW HAVEN, CT
Mayor John DeStefano, Jr.

PUTTING KIDS FIRST: YOUTH-ORIENTED POLICING

The City of New Haven is doing what few municipalities have dared: itís taking a comprehensive approach to dealing with the issue of violence among young people.

The model is called Youth-Oriented Policing. The Department of Police Services, the Board of Education and other partners, including the Yale Child Study Center and the New Haven Office of Juvenile Probation have developed more than a dozen related projects to help keep kids safe, address the psychological affects of violence on children, and prevent juvenile delinquency.

The foundation of Youth-Oriented Policing is the departmentís collaboration with Yale Universityís Child Study Center, known as the Child Development-Community Policing program. This program crosstrains police supervisors and mental health professionals in law enforcement and child developmental psychology, establishes seminars for community police officers and juvenile justice personnel, and makes mental health professionals available 24-hours a day through a consultation service to assist children who have been affected by violence. Police, clinicians and juvenile probation officers meet weekly to hammer out nettlesome problems and brainstorm new ideas. The program is currently being replicated in seven cities across the nation with the assistance of the U.S. Department of Justice, through the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Violence Against Womenís grant office and the Office of Victims of Crime.

The programs are rooted in the Department of Police Servicesí adoption in 1990 of the Community Policing model, which encourages police officers to think "outside the box." An outgrowth of that philosophy has been Youth-Oriented Policing. The Department has established a variety of positive interactions with young people, in an effort to break down the wall that has led young people in New Haven to regard police antagonistically. The goal of Youth-Oriented Policing is to develop relationships between police and children, to provide young people with positive models for identification and a benign sense of authority, so children are at less risk of becoming involved in antisocial activities.

On the most basic measure of success, the City has had great news. In a City with 19,500 students and a poverty rate near 24 percent, for the past two years there has not been a single serious act of violence in New Havenís schools.

Students also feel safer in school. A survey conducted biannually by the Yale Child Study Center, known as the Social and Health Assessment survey, has shown that more students say they feel safe at school, in their neighborhoods, on the way to school, at after school activities and in school restrooms. Fewer middle and high school students have witnessed a shooting or stabbing, carried a gun or been involved in gang fights over that span. Students also report a better perception of race relations, and fewer students report that they have become sexually active.

1. Briefly describe the structure of your program.

Youth-Oriented Policing, like Community-Based Policing, is not so much a program as a philosophy. It is built into the fabric of the daily activities of the police department, where officers are expected to treat young people with respect and dignity.

In the schools, the police collaborate with school administrators, mental health professionals, juvenile probation officers and security officers to build positive relationships with young people, remove their anonymity and counsel students against drug use and gang involvement. The theory is that, when police develop a relationship with a child, that child is less likely to act out serious criminal behavior. By knowing young people, police can exert a supportive influence on their behavior and help develop collaborative programs that form a guidance system for children.

The bedrock on which Youth-Oriented Policing is built is Child Development-Community Policing, a partnership between the City of New Haven and Yale Universityís Child Study Center. Since 1992, these partners have been working to address the psychological impact of chronic exposure to violence on children.

It includes five interrelated components of training and support:

1. Child Development Fellowships for Supervisory Police officers. Fellows spend 3 to 4 hours per week for 3 to 4 months learning developmental concepts and how to identify patterns of psychological disturbance, methods of clinical intervention and settings for treatment and care. This knowledge allows supervisors to lead a cohesive team of community police officers in crime prevention, early intervention and relationship building activities.

2. Police Fellowships for Clinicians. Clinicians spend time with police observing and learning about the day-to-day activities of police, helping clinicians understand the environment in which police, children and families interact.

3. Seminar on Child Development. Clinical faculty members and police supervisors lead a 16 to 20 hour seminar for police officers, clinicians and related professionals, reviewing case scenarios of seminar members and leaders.

4. Consultation service. Community police officers use this service to obtain immediate clinical guidance 24-hours a day from clinicians and trained supervisory police officers, especially in the aftermath of a childís traumatic experience. The service has received more than 1,000 referrals since 1992.

5. Program Conference. Police officers and clinicians meet in a weekly program conference, which allows them the opportunity to discuss difficult cases, plan and evaluate program activities.

Another part of the CD-CP program is an initiative for gateway offenders called PHAT Chance. This program attempts to address students who have already entered the criminal justice system. Adolescents age 10 to 16 are required to attend the program as part of juvenile probation. They attend four weekly sessions of between 90 to 120 minutes, with specific programming for community service, group counseling, academic support and structured recreational activities.

The program brings together three basic strategies:

1. Involve adolescents in a peer group to stabilize antisocial behavior.

2. Have clinicians work closely with adolescents.

3. Develop a collaborative relationship between clinicians and juvenile justice personnel focused on the youth.

Sixty-eight adolescents have been enrolled in the program since its inception, and an analysis of recidivism rates for 24 teens shows dramatically reduced rates of offenses per month in the six months subsequent to their discharge from the program, when compared to a control group of children with comparable charges and rates of arrest at the time of intake.

In addition, children who have been witnesses and victims of gang-related and community violence meet with officers and clinicians both to discuss their reactions to violence and to become involved in a planning process with school officials and parents to develop new strategies to increase safety in schools, and on streets in neighborhoods.

Youth-Oriented Policing also contains a number of other programmatic components: "Safe Corridors:" Police have initiated a special program to ensure students safe passage to and from school. Community police officers in foot patrols and mobil units patrol around the 41 schools at arrival and dismissal times. School and police personnel actively engage groups of loiterers and students roaming through neighborhoods, placing special emphasis on areas where students have been known to pause for drug use before school.

School Resource Officers: The department has 5 community officers who function as school resource officers at high schools and middle schools in economically distressed neighborhoods, building relationships with students. These officers have a number of specific responsibilities, including:

    • holding classroom sessions about conflict resolution, violence prevention and handgun violence;
    • counseling parents and students;
    • leading faculty discussions about gang recognition and classroom safety;
    • meeting with neighborhood groups;
    • performing gang mediation and track gang activity;
    • participating in the truancy program;
    • meeting with guidance counselors to monitor at-risk youth
    • issuing service requests for student and family follow-up and home visits

Evening coverage: One sergeant and four officers work a 4 p.m. to 12 a.m. shift, to handle service requests from School Resource Officers, address juvenile street gatherings, serve outstanding juvenile arrest warrants, and check on juveniles specified by probation officers or school officials.

Juvenile/Adult Probation: Probation officers are equipped with NHPD police radios and integrated into the community-based model with school and police personnel to extend the scope of monitoring and to supervise offenders who can still attend school. School-based satellite offices support their operations. In addition, nine community-based intensive and regular probation officers are available until 9 p.m. A current list of all young people on probation is available to police.

Truancy prevention program: New Haven pairs police and school security officers/aides in a minimum of four truancy teams during the school day to prevent students from dropping out and falling victim to street crime activity. These teams monitor known locations of truant students and will schedule visits to studentsí homes.

Police Athletic League: The City has an active PAL that was expanded citywide in 1997. Led by 12 actively-involved officers, it has recently grown to include activities such as street hockey and judo as well as more traditional sports such as volleyball, track and field and flag football. PAL also sponsors non-athletic events, including aviation, art, writing and chess programs, that allow children to express their creativity and learn new skills.

  • Mentoring Program: This program pairs at-risk youth with officers to help develop young peopleís confidence and self-esteem. Activities are scheduled throughout the year.
  • "Guns Are Not Toys:" Police, along with the school systemís social development program, teach a course on drug prevention and gun safety issues in classrooms to promote violence prevention.
  • Horses Helping Youth At Risk: Using drug forfeiture money, the City funds a therapeutic recreation instructor who teaches young people responsibility and helps them find constructive outlets for anger through learning horseback riding and to care for animals.
  • Safe Neighborhoods Programs: A State grant funds two summer youth programs involving 200 boys and girls in one economically distressed City neighborhood. A baseball league and a safe sprinkler program promote organized sports activity and discourage illegal use of fire hydrants.
  • Community Mediation: This group trains inner-city youth in mediation, who in turn serve as leaders of conflict-resolution workshops in their communities. The group also sponsors a parent/teen mediation program, funded partly by the City, and a school-based program, as well as the PHAT Chance program.
  • Board of Young Adult Police Commissioners: This 22-member board, drawn from the cityís high schools and appointed by the Mayor, provides a vehicle for teens to address youth-related issues and concerns about police. Since its inception in 1991, members of the board have raised money for Connecticut Hospice adolescent AIDS care, successfully lobbied the state Legislature for more treatment beds for young people with drug problems, met with President Clinton and participated in outreach programs in the school and community.

2. When was the program created and why?

The Youth-Oriented Policing program was created subsequent to the Police Departmentís transition to a community-based policing model in 1990, and has evolved over time in response to problems identified through the school system and by police.

3. How do you measure the programís effectiveness?

A key measure of the effectiveness of Youth-Oriented Policing is the Social and Health Assessment survey, conducted biannually by the Yale Child Study Center and the New Haven Public Schools. This survey assesses studentsí social and emotional health, and has shown positive results. For instance, in 1992, only 52 percent of 10th graders said they felt safe on the bus or while walking to school. In 1996, that number had risen to 76 percent. Between 1992 and 1996, the percentage of 10th graders who reported that they felt safe at school had risen from 49 to 67 percent.

4. How is the program financed?

The City and the Yale Child Study Center have obtained a number of federal, state and private grants to support the New Haven Community Policing model and the Child Development-Community Policing program. At bottom, however, the program represents the redeployment of existing resources.

5. What are major lessons learned from the program?

With effort, a comprehensive strategy can produce substantial and measurable results.

6. Contact person:

Douglas MacDonald

Dr. Steven Marans

Assistant Police Chief

Yale Child Study Center

Department of Police Service

P.O. Box 207900

One Union Avenue

230 South Frontage Road

New Haven, CT 06519

New Haven, CT 06520-7900

(203) 946-6266

(203) 785-2513

Dr. Reginald Mayo, Superintendent of Schools

54 Meadow St, New Haven, CT 06510

(203) 946-8888

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