DAVENPORT, Iowa — Davenport city leaders and the police department have announced they will hold a youth community action summit at the RiverCenter on Thursday, June 14th.
The summit is in response to the shooting death of a teenage boy in Davenport last month–this one in broad daylight.
The shooting prompted city officials to call a media briefing to get an urgent message out: “We cannot arrest our way out of this problem.”
The problem of Davenport’s juvenile crime — mostly shootings and car thefts — is so deeply intertwined with issues like poverty, lack of investment in educational opportunities, and community resources, that it requires a multi-pronged solution from every branch of the community, not just law enforcement.
Both Mayor Frank Klipsch and Police Chief Paul Sikorski repeatedly said that police were doing everything they could, “working long hours,” to arrest juvenile offenders.
“Just last weekend, we arrested seven juveniles for car thefts, and more than 50 over the last year,” said Sikorski. “Yet we’re still reporting stolen cars on a daily basis, aren’t we?”
That’s because “arrests are reactionary, and (the community needs) to be proactive,” said Sikorski. “We can’t do it alone. We need the community for the long-term, big-picture prevention, while police work in the short-term.”
So what exactly does that big picture look like? Sikorski and Klipsch are developing an idea centered around “prevention and early intervention,” and are organizing a summit – tentatively planned for June – to seek community input from diverse perspectives.
It would likely include a juvenile assessment center like the one Davenport police visited in Colorado recently, in which law enforcement, school staff, and holistic professionals collaborate to either rehabilitate or prevent at-risk youth from entering gangs or the justice system, providing them with the resources and support they may be lacking.
The idea is very similar to the current Scott County Juvenile Diversion program aimed at keeping first-time offenders from repeating crimes.
The common thread seems to be a collaborative approach to rehabilitation of youth offenders, instead of locking them up for long periods of time.
Additionally, with Scott County’s Juvenile Detention Center already filled to capacity most of the time, officials recognize they cannot keep ‘warehousing’ juvenile offenders–especially not at such a high financial cost. The 16-bed facility has filled up so many times since the summer of 2017, that Scott County has spent an average of $20,000 more a month sending area juvenile offenders to other county detention centers.
The goal is to make the community safer, which means reducing the amount of shots-fired calls. Sikorski reported that 73 firearms have been reported stolen out of homes and cars since January 1, 2018 — into the hands of people who can’t be trusted to be responsible with them.
Both Sikorski and Mayor Klipsch are urging citizens to prevent “crimes of opportunity” by simply locking their cars, and keeping firearms out of them.
All Scott County citizens are invited to the summit, but Sikorski hopes to secure partnerships with faith-based organizations, non-profits, civil society groups, and others.
And while Sikorski understands why people might be quick to blame parents for not controlling their children, he cautions: “The problem is more complicated than just blaming somebody. It’s systemic.”