Home Madison Law enforcement, education, community leaders convene to address juvenile crime

Law enforcement, education, community leaders convene to address juvenile crime

Judge Everett Mitchell speaks at a consortium of community leaders about reducing juvenile crime. Photo by Robert Chappell.

About 30 leaders in law enforcement, education and human services from communities across Dane County – Madison, Sun Prairie, Marshall, Oregon and other communities – to discuss ways to collaborate to address juvenile crime.

The meeting, held at the United Way of Dane County in Madison, was convened by The Honorable Everett Mitchell, presiding judge of the Juvenile Division of the Dane County Circuit Court.

Mitchell said the meeting wasn’t convened in response to an increase in crime, but rather as a means to increase communication among the various influences in the lives of young people.

“It’s all about public safety from a perspective that allows for us to coordinate our services together,” Mitchell said. “This was an idea to be proactive, rather than reactive. Reactive is always you arrest, you incarcerate. How do we get in front of that? How do we make sure that (young people) don’t even want to (commit crimes)? And what are the ways in which bringing community together can make that happen?”

Photo by Robert Chappell

Mitchell said he’s brought together a smaller number of law enforcement and education leaders in what he calls the Juvenile Empowerment Team  – JET – to create better understanding between police, courts and schools.

“It really started with some of the misinformation that were being disseminated around our community and trying to make sure that we will put together law enforcement officers, especially rank and file, to educate them about what the juvenile court does, but also what are some of the outcomes that we’re trying to accomplish at the same time,” Mitchell said.

Small group discussions among law enforcement officers and educators focused on providing support for young people who come from troubled home environments with services like mental health care. One suggestion was to increase communication among school districts and police departments when an at-risk youth moves from one community to another. Another was to create a social media campaign to destigmatize mental health care. 

Madison Police Captain Harrison Zanders speaks in small group discussion Monday. Photo by Robert Chappell.

“I’ve never seen this many law enforcement in one place,” Mitchell said toward the close of the meeting. “Think about ways in which you can lead … to really engage a community problem like this. I really want to speak to the work we’ve been doing with the JET, take some of these ideas, bring together whomever wants to continue to assist us in that process. And then we start chipping off what are some actionable things that we can begin to get accomplished, and then hopefully, start to see the measurable impacts.”