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Quick and Dirty

Center of Controversy

By Kate Leventhal | Posted 3/22/2006

The Maryland Department of Juvenile Services’ proposal for a day and night reporting center at 2920 Greenmount Ave. (“Keep the Kids Away,” Mobtown Beat, Feb. 1) was shot down before it ever reached the state for its March 1 review.

Juvenile Services wanted to use the center to provide day and evening supervision and programs for nonviolent juvenile offenders. The young people would be assigned to the center rather than to traditional juvenile detention centers where more serious offenders are housed. But the plan was thwarted by neighborhood residents and representatives.

City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke (D-14th District) says that she and a delegation of people from the neighborhood told the state Department of General Services, which had selected the site for Juvenile Services, that they did not want the center at the Greenmount location because the neighborhood has concerns about moving juvenile offenders into the already crime-beleaguered Waverly area. The neighborhood’s voice was heard, and the proposal to open the center on Greenmount Avenue was withdrawn.

This is the second time Juvenile Services has withdrawn such a proposal. Before the Greenmount Avenue site was selected, a location in lower Charles Village had been shot down by neighborhood activists. Because of the negative public reaction, Juvenile Services has postponed its attempts to find a new site for the center. Instead, says Juvenile Services spokesman Ed Hopkins, the agency will focus its efforts on improving an already-existing reporting center operating on Druid Park Lake Drive.

“It’s a little frustrating at times, because we really do want to find programs that help the kids,” Hopkins says, noting that the department understands the communities’ concerns about the center. However, he says, “our desired intent is to help the kids in any way we can.”

The reporting center on Druid Park Lake Drive is a daytime-only reporting center, which requires young people to check in and out for supervision at designated times. Juvenile Services officials say the department will need a larger facility to provide both daytime and nighttime services for young offenders.

Hopkins says 79 young people were enrolled at the Druid Park Lake Drive center during 2005; 62 successfully completed programs at the center, and 17 failed to do so (reasons given: failure to participate in programs, going AWOL from the center, and re-offending while enrolled with the center).

Juvenile Services operates another reporting center in Prince George’s County, and Hopkins says that the department hopes to expand both the current centers in light of its difficulties in opening new centers in the city.

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