Wendy Crank, who is the director of Juvenile Diversion, said that the number of kids being referred to her organization for criminal behavior is currently increasing. Juvenile Diversion is the organization serving San Miguel, Ouray and West Montrose counties that works to keep kids out of the court system.
So far in 2018, 38 kids have been referred. That number is down slightly from last year when 43 kids were referred.
In 2016, that number was 14; In 2015, it was 25.
Currently, most of the referrals are male (29) and from San Miguel County (27). The breakdown of youth clients receiving services from towns within the region are as follows: Telluride, 10; Mountain Village, 1; Norwood, 5; Ridgway, 20; Ouray, 12; Nucla, 4; and Naturita, 1.
The types of offenses kids have been referred for are assault, fraud, possession of alcohol, possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, sexual assault, theft, truancy and trespassing.
Crank said the numbers overall seem to growing the last few years. According to her, though, that is not necessarily because more kids are getting into trouble. Crank said she explained the data in a way that officials from San Miguel Resource Center explain theirs.
“I would like to say most of that is because people are actually reaching out and using the program,” she said. “Our numbers can show two different things. The numbers can show more of something going on, or actually we are reacting and getting more people help. It doesn’t mean more kids are getting into trouble.”
Crank said still the numbers have risen with the legalization of marijuana. She said kids have gotten a message that it is okay to smoke it, and she said Juvenile Diversion has seen a harder time getting kids to stop smoking. Even when kids are working with the organization on a contract, she said they have difficulty stopping, sometimes because of family use in the home.
Crank said that marijuana is still illegal on a federal level, and when youth are busted for the drug, it can affect their futures in ways they’ve not thought about.
Kids can become ineligible to serve in the military or receive financial aid for college if they’ve been in trouble for marijuana.
“We want to educate them,” she said. “It’s still a big issue.”
Additionally, vaping — the smoking of electronic cigarettes – is becoming increasingly problematic. She said Juvenile Diversion is seeing a rise in the number of kids in trouble for vaping at school. She said teachers are just becoming aware of what vape equipment looks like and are only recently able to identify it in the classroom. Crank said unfortunately the paraphernalia looks like a computer jump drive or a writing pen — items that are usually present in a classroom.
Local schools are now turning in vape pens to Juvenile Diversion when they find them.
“The vaping issue is huge,” said Crank.
So far, Norwood has not made a referral for vaping yet. Still, a few Norwood kids have been referred for possession of alcohol.