Former juvenile offenders share their first-hand experiences

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Leaders in Scott County are coming together to combat juvenile crime in the Quad Cities. 

They shared their findings from the summer’s community youth summit this morning.

Here are some of the major takeaways.

Cars stolen by minors jumped by 212 percent since 2016. 

However, overall crimes being committed by kids dropped by 32 percent since 2013. 

The number of kids who are first-time offenders increased.

Today city leaders proposed immediate and long-term plans.

One main goal is to roll out plans for a juvenile assessment center in Scott County. 

“It’s a one stop shop where our community members know where they can go to get any kind of programs or services no matter what the issue is,” Davenport Police Chief Paul Sikorski said. “And it can go from domestic violence issues, it can go into substance abuse, mental health, name it. All of those services will be administered through this juvenile assessment center.”

The immediate action steps recommended were easing the flow of information sharing, making connecting resources a priority, creating awareness of existing programs, establishing a case review team, more accountability for car theft offenders, enhancing family engagement and enacting restorative justice practices.

Local 4 News took a closer look at the issues teenagers face after today’s conference.

We sat down with some former juvenile offenders who shared their experiences, stopping by One Eighty in Davenport to sit down with three men who grew up in and out of the system most of their lives. 

And today they say it starts with more programs, but it also takes more than that. 

Today, Justin Smith is 30 years old and coming up on a year sober. After more than a decade in and out of the system, he’s come to realize why it never seemed to stick with him. He said the same rehabilitation program he 

“I was arrested when I was 12 years old for the first time,” he said. “From when I was 12 going into CADS and doing classes with CADS, it was the same drug treatment I got at the age of 29. I understood it at this age, I didn’t back then.”

Smith added “I think the biggest issue that I had at that time with getting help, was that it was adult help that’s geared towards kids. That’s something that we don’t understand in the developmental stages of our lives.”

20-year-old Deven Deschepper went down a similar path, running into trouble by the time he hit 8th grade. But he says while he learned a lot in his detention program, the hardest part was going home. 

“I was still a kid trying to use the things that I learned, trying to be a better person, but still in the same environment you know?”

Which is why he says curbing teen crime has to go beyond the classroom.

“If they went back into the community and had something to follow up with and go back to, like ‘okay, I have all this cool stuff I know, but who am I going to share it with?'” said Deschepper. “Now what am I going to invest myself into?”

Deschepper says it’s about giving kids a sense of guidance, something former juvenile offender, Jessie Bowman, wishes he had growing up. 

“I’ve been in and out of jail since 2007, and it was more or less a game.”

But at 25 years old, Bowman says it’s not so funny anymore. 

“It carries with you your entire life.”

Now they’ve all landed at One Eighty, completing a program that has helped them find what they’ve been missing. 

“It’s overall a family,” said Bowman. “It’s more of a family then it is a facility.”

They said when they were getting into trouble as teenagers, they wished they’d had more one-on-one mentoring. That’s why they say while programs can fix some of the problems, in order to see long-term solutions, you have to get to know the kids behind the crimes. 

The group went on to say they think the juvenile assessment center will be a good initiative toward making a change, and would like to more being done to get the word out about programs that are currently available in the Quad Cities area. 

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