Social Worker Sharon Stoyer and Police Officer Doug Woods both work in Bridgeport and officers Bobby Burroughs and John Policano both work in Stratford. But their stories are the same.
They all deal with youths ages 9-16 charged with first-time, non-violent, non-serious crimes, and the officers want to see them avoid the court system through a Juvenile Review Board. They convinced the Trumbull Police Commission to create a panel too.
“I think it’s a great program. Juvenile court is overburdened. Let’s be real,” said Police Chief Thomas Kiely.
The review board, which would handle an estimated 25-30 cases a year, is especially useful for Trumbull because the panel reviews crimes including shoplifting. Trumbull has two malls.
The process starts with the child, said Stoyer, who manages the program, which is part of the Regional Youth Adult Substance Abuse Project (RYASAP).
"The child has to take responsibility for their actions," she said, adding that clients perform community service.
She recalled four boys who broke into a Bridgeport school gym to play basketball one Saturday. They all received community service and had to personally present letters of apology to the police chief in his office.
The punishments usually fit the crimes, such as performing community service in a store from which an item was stolen, Stoyer said.
Commission Member Anna Henry wondered about the program's effectiveness.
"Have most of the kids done well and not repeated?" she asked.
"I would say 92 percent tend to do better," Burroughs said.
One troublesome issue is truancy, which takes more time to address, he said.
The system works, added Woods. "[In] some of the kids I've seen a remarkable change. This is a very good tool," he said.
Bridgeport's and Stratford's boards have about 30 members each, ranging in background from business owners to teachers and ex-offenders, officials said. They meet once a week with about five members depending on the nature of the charges, Stoyer said.
All the police officers said they are school resource officers who deal with juveniles daily.
The next step is to set up the board, which could take as much as a year. Commissioners said they were thinking about asking the to participate.
"If you catch them early enough, we have a very good success rate," Woods said.