Operation Safe Kids to focus on violent youth

Patrols planned to ensure that offenders are obeying conditions of release

September 06, 2002|By Laura Vozzella | Laura Vozzella,SUN STAFF

City and state officials are pledging to do a better job of monitoring young, violent offenders under a new program that Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and Mayor Martin O'Malley will announce today.

Under Operation Safe Kids, city police and state probation agents will form joint patrols to make sure juvenile offenders are obeying court-ordered curfews and other conditions of their release. An apprehension unit will track down those who violate those conditions.

The city's Health Department will hire workers to help offenders find jobs, receive drug treatment and gain access to other social services. Like the CitiStat program, which tracks the performance of city agencies, the department will hold weekly meetings to review the status of each youth in the program.

Townsend and O'Malley are scheduled to appear at noon today at the Harlem Park Recreation Center, in the 700 block of N. Calhoun St., to announce the program and sign a pledge to see it through.

Officials in their offices provided details of the plan yesterday but said O'Malley and Townsend would not comment before the event.

No price tag has been placed on the program, which calls for the state Department of Juvenile Justice to provide at least 10 probation agents and for the city health department to hire an unspecified number of youth workers.

About 100 city youths - those considered most likely to kill or be killed - are expected to be involved in the program. City and state officials say targeted youths will be those who have just been released from a juvenile facility; are under orders to wear electronic monitoring devices; are on probation; or are otherwise considered at-risk, city and state officials said.

Since 1999, 441 people younger than age 18 have been shot in Baltimore, 78 of them fatally, according to the mayor's office.

The announcement occurs in the wake of widely publicized problems with the juvenile justice department, which Townsend has overseen as lieutenant governor. Those problems are expected to become a major issue in this year's gubernatorial campaign, in which Townsend, a Democrat, likely will face Republican Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

In July, law enforcement officials disclosed that three Baltimore teens had been charged as adults in separate killings this year after breaking away from electronic monitoring devices that were supposed to keep them detained at home. Last month, state officials gave final approval to spending almost $4.6 million to settle legal claims from juveniles beaten and mistreated at boot camps.

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