Police chief: youth crime numbers down

<p>Hermiston Police Chief Jason Edmiston</p>

Youth crime is down across the board, Hermiston Police Chief Jason Edmiston told the Hermiston School Board on Monday.

“2011 was an ugly year for us,” Edmiston said. “I was hoping 2012 would be a better year for us, and it was.”

Total crime in the city of Hermiston was down 12 percent last year, Edmiston said. Violence crimes were down 47 percent. Those same trends carried into the juvenile charges and crimes.

In 2012, the Hermiston Police Department processed 321 juveniles for 544 different offenses or crimes. The majority of those charges — 151 — fell under alcohol and rugs. About 130 were for traffic offenses; 79 were for theft-related crimes; and 40 were for criminal mischief. The juvenile crimes also include five concealed weapon charges and four for unlawful use of a weapon. Each category showed a decrease from 2011, when the city saw spikes in alcohol and drug offenses, other crimes and weapons charges.

Edmiston credited the declining crime rates to a number of reasons, including a culmination of positive efforts by all stakeholders involved. One of those efforts is the Community Accountability Board with the decrease. The CAB — made up of two school board members, two Hermiston city councilors and one community member — works with young, first-time offenders to provide appropriate punishments, support and solutions to curb future criminal activity.

“At a 96 percent success rate, I would definitely say it’s working,” Edmiston said. “The format of the CAB, the success of the CAB are having phenomenal effects on our numbers.”

The CAB came out of a youth violence roundtable in 2008 after a spike in youth offenses, especially graffiti. In 2008, HPD policy also changed so parents could be cited for “failure to supervise a minor” when their children were caught committing offenses.

Juvenile crimes have continued to decline since 2008. The largest of those declines is in graffiti charges. In 2008, HPD recorded 239 graffiti charges for juveniles; in 2012, juveniles received 26 graffiti charges. The 2012 graffiti charges were also down 65 percent from 2011.

The report also shows a positive trend in other areas. In 2008, HPD recorded 101 curfew charges and 91 for disorderly conduct/harassment; in 2012, those figures dropped to 33 and 40, respectively. Curfew charges are down 59 percent from 2011 to 2012; disorderly/harassment charges are down 40 percent from last year.

The police chief also said awareness and use of technology, including video surveillance systems at schools, has also helped reduce offenses.

Edmiston did point out potential flaws with the statistics including human error, minimal oversight and “overzealous charging,” where officers charge based on probable cause but the district attorney will reduce charges based on what can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

Other issues come with the cases.

For example, a rape reported in 2012 counted on 2012 data, although the rape took place in 2008. Also, a fatal shooting at the Gotta Stop Mini Mart in January is technically an unresolved homicide.

“With the Gotta Stop shooting, we’ve identified everyone involved. We know who they are, who shot who, but it’s technically going to remain unresolved because of self-defense and what the DA can prove beyond a reasonable doubt,” Edmiston said.

Going forward, Edmiston said he will continue to work with the Hermiston School District, including offering site reviews of all campuses in the coming weeks.

Those reviews will focus on security strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, inspired by recent school shooting in Connecticut.

“We’re also continuing that communication,” Edmiston said. “What can the school expect from us in the case of an event? What can we expect from the schools? We’re just making sure we’re on the same page.”

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