Information Sharing Helps Control Juvenile Violence

Odell B. Ruffin | 1/28/2009, 11:37 a.m.

Maryland Gov. Martin O€Malley announced the expansion of the Operation Safe Kids program in Prince George€s County and introduced a proposal for the Child Safety Net legislation on Jan. 22. The Child Safety Net legislation seeks to legalize the sharing of information on youth offenders among state agencies and law enforcement agencies across state borders.

The OSK program is driven by the Kidstat process, which solicits input from a variety of state agencies, including the Departments of Justice and Health, to ensure that the youth and families involved in the program receive the correct services. The Kidstat process also tracks the progress of youth offenders on a weekly basis and €encourages accountability among all partners,€ according to a press release by O€Malley€s office.
€Crisis intervention for the youth we serve is critical to not only their success but often their survival. As we learned in Baltimore City, where this program was first started by Governor O€Malley as Mayor, this program saves lives,€ Department of Juvenile Services Secretary Donald DeVore said. €OSK embraces our youth that are at the greatest risk of being a victim or suspect of violence and addresses the complex spectrum of issues they face including the violence they witness on a regular basis.€

The OSK program also employs three youth workers through the Prince George€s County Department of Health, along with a director, to manage the cases of young offenders.

€Operation Safe Kids allows at-risk youth to make strides in improving themselves, while serving the community to improve our supervision and treatment practices for those young offenders,€ O€Malley said.

The Child Safety Net Legislation allows juvenile court records to be shared between law enforcement agencies across state borders, including the District, according to a press release from O€Malley€s office.

"The ability for state agencies to share information is key to helping the youths we serve," Secretary Brenda Donald, Department of Human Resources Secretary, said. "The more we collaborate, the greater chance our children have to succeed in the future.€

The Maryland Department of Public Safety and the Metropolitan Police Department began an initiative in 2008 to exchange €live€ information about more than 1,500 adult offenders, according to O€Malley€s press release. During this time, the Prince George's
Police Department reported a six percent decrease in homicides from 2007 to 2008, according to O€Malley€s press release.

€It€s [the sharing of youth offenders information] not a bad idea. But I am really concerned about who has access to the information,€ Bryan Brittan, a P.G. County resident, said. €Some officers are a little suspect, and I worry about corruption. But I think we do need to do something to control the violence.€

According to the office of O€Malley, violent juvenile crimes are on a downward trend, including juvenile homicides that have decreased from 54 in 2007 to 49 in 2008. Juvenile shootings and victims are declining in Maryland; juvenile shootings have decreased from 96 in 2007 to 85 in 2008, and juvenile victims of violent crime decreased nine percent over the same period, according to O€Malley€s administration.