Police take mentor role to fight youth crime Cops As Peers pairs officers, troubled juveniles

March 22, 1996|By Ed Heard | Ed Heard,SUN STAFF

The Howard County Police Department has formed a new youth mentoring program to help curb the county's continuing problem with juvenile crime.

The program, Cops As Peers (CAP), pairs volunteer police officers with youths in need of positive role models. Many of the children are identified by teachers or by officers during their trips through neighborhoods, said Sgt. Rick Maltz, a coordinator of the program.

"We're trying to make a difference in tomorrow one day at a time," Sergeant Maltz said. "We want a youth years from now to come back and say, 'You made me look in a different direction and go a positive route.' "

Police said the program will supplement a new anti-gang initiative that Howard County Police Chief James N. Robey recently promised to help control the rise in youth gangs in the county.

Since February, the police Youth Services Section has been operating CAP on a $5,000 grant it received from the Maryland State Office of Crime Control and Prevention last fall. Youths and their mentors will participate in a formal launch of CAP from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. tomorrow at Normandy Bowling Lanes on U.S. 40 in Ellicott City.

About 20 officers are involved in CAP. Once or twice a month, they will meet individually with the children and help them with homework or take them on a day trip. All the officers and children get together once a month for basketball, bowling, skating or a pizza party.

Officers began planning the program in December 1994 in response to a 46 percent increase in the number of juvenile arrests 1,657 over the previous year. Among serious offenses, juvenile arrests for theft increased from 314 in 1993 to 444 in 1994 and burglaries rose from 74 in 1993 to 109 in 1994.

Last year, total juvenile arrests were 2,006, a 21 percent increase from 1994. The number of juvenile arrests for burglary and theft went down, but robberies committed by youths rose to 25 from 19 in 1994, and the number of aggravated assaults increased to 79 from 53 in 1994.

Pub Date: 3/22/96

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