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|October 17, 2011
Director of Communications
Essex Juvenile Probation Collaborates with Local Police and
To Offer Community Center for At-Risk Youth
Essex County Juvenile Court Probation Officers are partnering with the Salem Police Department and the Plummer Home for Boys, a 156-year-old residential home for at-risk youth, to offer troubled children in a struggling Salem neighborhood a safe after-school hang-out and weekend haven in a community center setting which features rehabilitative services. The goal of this unique collaboration is to meet the needs of children, who are court-involved and/or on probation, while reducing recidivism.
Probation Officers, Police, and Plummer Home staff have opened the doors at 50 Leavitt Street to middle and high school children, ages 12-18. They are welcome to stop by for a snack, a pick-up game of basketball, and a turn at a video game. The Community Resource Center, formerly funded in part by DYS (Department of Youth Services), re-opened in August under the auspices of Probation, Salem Police, and the Plummer Home in "The Point," a densely populated, largely low-income community comprised of Lafayette Street and bordered by Derby and Chase streets. The "On Point" Program is the result of a brainstorming session on the best use of the building, according to Salem Police Chief Paul Tucker.
The center's offerings include therapeutic sessions such as anger management, substance abuse prevention, and gang prevention. Also available are lessons on independent living, job interviewing and preparation, as well as vocational skills. In addition to assisting with the center's operation, Probation Officers Kimberly Lawrence and Jose Avila provide referrals to the facility, meet with children on probation, and coordinate court-ordered community service projects for juvenile offenders. The center which is also open to all children even those who are not court-involved, will host a neighborhood Halloween Party and Open House on Friday, October 21, from 4 to 6 p.m. at the center where residents will be invited in to tour the site and participate in festivities.
"It is a great collaboration between Probation, a community-based agency, and city administration which enhances the quality of life in the community while offering rehabilitative services to at-risk children," said Essex County Juvenile Court Chief Probation Officer Daniel Passacantilli.
Probation Officer Lawrence, commented, "Probation Officers have had a long-term relationship with the Plummer Home and the Salem Police Department. There are not many options or places for the children and this is a place where they can interact with us, the police and the Plummer Home to develop relationships and build trust."
Plummer Home Director James Lister described the center as "one-stop shopping" for juvenile probationers and minors who are on probation or subjects of Care and Protection, CHINS (Children In Need of Services), and delinquency cases.
"I think this is a really great collaboration of three agencies. We have had a long-term relationship with the Probation Department and I saw this as an opportunity to help at-risk children," Lister said.
Because of the center's proximity to a basketball court, the center provides snacks, juice or water to any child who stops by. Police Chief Tucker said the center also coordinates basketball leagues and has provided nutritious breakfasts for the children.
"We see this as a positive program and we never turn kids away. This center is a positive force in the "Point." Having this center and the collaboration between the Plummer Home, Probation and police makes it more attainable for children to complete probation. This collaboration impacts our city's youth in a positive way," Lister said.
He added, "The Probation Officers are very much advocates for the children. They go above and beyond. The children also appear to appreciate the center. There has been no aggression, no fights."
Police Chief Tucker describing his department's role in this unique collaboration said, "We have stepped out of our police role and into one of community service. Police, Probation, and the Plummer Home have pooled our talents with a great group of folks with an eye to resources offered to children."
He added, "I see the center as a very good investment of our time and money. It is a safe place for children to come in a nice environment."