After hundreds of cases, program leaders tout success.
In Santa Clarita, juveniles who commit petty crimes like vandalism, curfew violation, speeding or shoplifting get a rare opportunity get a second chance to make amends and clear their records.
Our city's Community Court program allows juvenile defendants who plead guilty to their crimes to go before a volunteer judge and face consequences geared toward teaching valuable life lesions and diverting the teen off their current path.
Usually the sentences reflect the crime itself. Vandalism cases will likely be ordered to clean up graffiti, while speeders have attended the Youth Grove and taken reckless driving courses. Punishments can also involve restitution both financially and otherwise. All penalties are served in the city of Santa Clarita, where the crime occurred.
If the defendant completes their punishment, the crime is erased from their record.
Program leaders recently issued a year-end report on the accomplishments of Community Court, which highlighted statistics from the 113 criminal and 151 traffic cases the court facilitated in 2009.
Of the criminal cases, 51 percent were curfew violations. Of the traffic cases, 70 percent were for speeding. Pending revised numbers, program leaders believe that close to 100 percent of the violators will have successfully completed their punishments.
The sentences stemming from 2009 cases resulted in 984 hours of community service, which included the removal of 600 graffiti tags and litter cleanup in the Santa Clarita Valley.
More statistics from 2009's cases:
• The average age of defendants was 16 (16 ½ for traffic violators).
• The top three criminal offenses were curfew, smoking paraphernalia and petty theft.
• The top three traffic offenses were speeding, failure to stop, and unsafe lane change.
• For speeding violations, the average violator was caught driving 16 miles per hour over the speed limit.
• Since 2006, the Community Court system has seen over 700 cases.
Photo courtesy of the Santa Clarita Sheriff's Station.