Juvenile crime dips from five-year high


By LPR Staff

Youth in Caldwell County seem to be behaving better this year.

According to information provided to the Caldwell County Commissioners” Court on Monday morning by Juvenile Probation Director Jay Monkerud, juvenile crime referrals fell considerably in 2009, making the probation department wonder if 2008″s high rates were

simply an anomaly.

“Last year, the most concerning statistic regarding referrals were the 72 felony referrals,” Monkerud said. “This year, the most uplifting number is the 34 felony referrals received by the Juvenile Court. This year, that number reflects the fewest felony referrals we have received in the last five years.”

Although Monkerud could not cite a specific reason for the drop this year, or the spike last year, he said he feels the numbers have “normalized” somewhat, and believes the youth of the county to be heading in the right direction – away from crime.

“Some changes have been made at the state level that I think might be helping us,” he said. “And the fact is, these kids aren”t as [foolish] as we seem to… think they are.”

In all, the only increases in juvenile offenses this year came in the form of Class C Misdemeanor citations (13 in 2009 versus nine in 2008) and referrals for violation of probation, up one to 73.

Monkerud said the youth population in Caldwell County is estimated at 4,417, and only 137 of those youth were referred to his office.

In other bright law enforcement news, the Commissioners heard a report from the Caldwell County Community Supervision and Corrections (Adult Probation) department regarding the relative success of the Pre-Trial Bond program.

Since it was instituted a little more than a year ago, the Pre-Trial Bond Department has striven to save the county tax dollars by affecting the release of certain non-dangerous criminal offenders from jail, who might not otherwise be able to afford to pay a bond.

In 2009, the department secured the release of 150 individuals on pre-trial personal bonds. Of those, only 19 failed to appear in court, while 18 otherwise violated the conditions of their bond and were therefore returned to jail, yielding an approximate success rate of 80 percent.

“This program serves many purposes and we hope that it”s kept the community safer,” said Judge Todd A. Blomerth, who along with District Attorney Trey Hicks and Caldwell County Sheriff Daniel Law, was instrumental in spearheading the program.
To date, the Probation Department estimates, the County may have saved upwards of $300,000 in housing costs for the inmates who have been released on personal bonds, rather than staying in jail while their cases are disposed of.

That figure is predicated upon a per diem cost of $42.32 to house each inmate, and an estimated 45-day stay for any inmate that cannot otherwise afford to bond out.

Caldwell County Jail Captain Keith Jeffrey also voiced strong support for the program.

In a memorandum presented to the Commissioners, Jeffrey said the program has not only held the jail population down, but has allowed for the release of some prisoners who might be “medically incapable” of serving time in jail. The release of such prisoners, he said, has resulted in additional financial savings in that the county is not forced to shoulder exorbitant medical bills for inmates.

The Pre-Trial Bond program itself was not up for review. Rather, the Probation Department asked to make the presentation to touch base with the Commissioners and report on the success of the program, which is now being referred to as a template for other counties who do not yet have pre-trial release programs.

In brief news:
The Commissioners approved education hours for several county employees.

They heard a report from the Caldwell County Environmental Control Officer, who reported he picked up around 4,500 pounds of trash from Caldwell County roadsides in January. He said the biggest dumpsite he found was on County Road 182, where a litterer had dumped 20 tires and other trash.

The panel decided there was no need at this time to instate an outdoor burning ban.

The County paid bills in the amount of $75,781.95, which included $1,984.89 in indigent legal defense expenses.

The Caldwell County Commissioners” Court meets on the second, third and fourth Monday of each month at 9 a.m. in Room 100 of the Caldwell County Courthouse. The meetings are open to the public, and the public is encouraged to attend.


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