LACONIA — City police and the Boys and Girls Club often find themselves at the crossroads of juvenile delinquency and are working collaboratively to save young lives that may be in jeopardy.
Yesterday, Police Chief Chris Adams and Boys and Girls Club Executive Director Cheryl Avery explained how their two missions overlap and complement each other.
"We want to initially catch kids while their in middle school," said Avery, who noted that's when disruptive and potentially dangerous behavior often begins to manifest.
The Boys and Girls Club has three program goals — academic success, leadership, and supervision and structure. They accomplish this thorough sports and extra curricular activities, said Avery.
"For kids, it has to be fun," she said.
Adams said that every child who gets involved in structured and extra-curricular activities like the Boys and Girls club is much less likely to wind up in the juvenile justice system.
Statistically, the local numbers are dropping slightly. In 2011, there were 356 juvenile matters reported to the police, of which 167 were criminal matters. In 2012, of the 390 incidents reported to police, 176 were criminal matters while last year, there were 135 criminal matters of the 323 reported incidents.
For the police, crimes involve juvenile petitions, an adjudicatory hearing, and disposition that can include everything from counseling to incarceration. The Police Department has a detective specifically assigned to juveniles and many of the encounters of regular beat officers involves children under 17.
What alarms Adams is that the vast majority of the criminal reports in all three years involved crimes against persons. Typically that category includes assault, criminal threatening, and fighting. Other categories of crime include crime against property, which involves thefts, trespassing and vandalizing and crimes against society that involve drugs or alcohol.
In 2011 67 percent of reported incidents took place after 2 p.m., in 2012 65 percent were after 2 p.m. and in 2013 57 percent occurred after 2 p.m. Incidents reported during school hours were about one-third of those reported during times that school isn't in session.
"Crimes against persons are huge," said Adams. "They involve a lack of respect."
"If we show them respect, they'll should others respect," he said.
Avery and Adams hope that the Boys and Girls Club can be one of those vehicles that provides the structure and supervision children need after school and during the summer.
Adams said Capt. Bill Clary has offered to coach and teach softball while Capt. Matt Canfield has offered to teach some weight training.
Avery said along with basketball, the club has reached out the Appalachian Mountain Teen Project with the goal of getting children outside and into nature. She said the close proximity to Opechee Park means some of the children will be able to take swimming lessons and perhaps do some canoeing.
"Look where we live," she said acknowledging the lakes, mountains, and forests that should be natural playing grounds for children.
Avery said the Boys and Girls Club has a number of success stories as well including one young woman named Sara who was named Youth of the Year four years ago and who has returned to the club to do some mentoring and teaching.
Both agreed that the real focus of both the club and the police is to break the cycle of poverty, drugs, abuse, and alcoholism many at risk children encounter on a daily basis.
Avery and Adams said the Boys and Girls Club open house is Friday from 4 to 6 p.m. and this weekend is the Rotary Club Pancake Breakfast at the club with all the proceeds to go to the club. The breakfast is Sunday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The club is located at 888 North Main Street in Laconia, across the street from Opechee Park.