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June 27, 2014

Cops may return to babysitting duty if state budget cuts aren’t restored

DUNCAN — The Community Intervention Center in Duncan, which handles juveniles arrested for crimes, is facing  a $126,476 budget cut that may force layoffs.

If the budget cut isn’t restored,  officials fear police will have to return to the days when they had to “babysit” minors after they were picked up for crimes.

John Herdt, executive director of Youth Services for Stephens, warned the Duncan City Council that layoffs will be unavoidable if the state budget cuts aren’t restored.

Herdt said he hopes the funding issue can be resolved. Oklahoma House Speaker Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview, and State Rep. Dennis Johnson, R-Duncan, have been enlisted to help, he said.

If funding isn’t restored, the center will have to lay off four full-time employees and three part-time workers at the center, which has nine employees, Herdt told the City Council on Tuesday.

The Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs, which funds the center, offered only $53,200 this year after providing  $179,676  last year,  Herdt said.

There are seven Community Intervention Centers in Oklahoma.

 They  are a joint venture between the Office of Juvenile Affairs, municipalities, youth service agencies and other interested parties.

In Duncan, the center helps police   by providing a place for officers to take children who are arrested. It also helps  provide assessments and in making referrals to the courts, juvenile services and  counselors.

The three community intervention centers that serve southwestern Oklahoma are in Duncan, Lawton and Clinton.

“They don’t take into consideration all we do. If you take away our services, you’re taking away from the rural community,” he said.

Duncan City Manager Jim Frieda said before the intervention center was opened, police officers had to “babysit” juveniles who were picked up criminal activity.

Duncan Police Chief Danny Ford said the funding cut for the center would pose problems.

“If we lose that funding, it’ll be a huge overtime issue, and remove officers from the streets,” Ford said. “You’ll see a lot less man hours on the streets.”

There is an increase in juvenile crimes during the summer  so the decrease in help and response time for those cases would make their busiest time of year even busier, Ford said.

 

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