Diversion programs helping keep juvenile crime rate down, says director

Juvenile crime rates down

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - You’ve probably heard the term ‘it takes a village’, and for Bill Sommers, Director of Juvenile Justice in Calcasieu Parish, it is a collaborative effort that has helped bring the juvenile arrests in Lake Charles from 246 arrests in 2017 down to 143 this year.

“From our judiciary, our district attorney, to all of our law enforcement partners, our school board, to all of our community partners out there...it truly takes a village," Sommers said. "Our staff here and our governing body with the police jury, it does take a village to keep our children on task.”

Sommers said any child is one choice away from being considered ‘at risk’ and that their diversion program has proven to be one of their most successful.

“When a child and their family come in looking for help, and we are going to place that child in diversion. What we do is, we put them on a screening instrument," Sommers said. "We find out what makes that child tick. Then we wear our services or case plan towards that. It could be anger management, it could be shoplifting issues, it could be truancy, it could be literacy.”

He said the addition of the multi-agency resource center, or MARC, which has information on all services under one roof. It helps reduce the time juveniles have to wait to access those programs from potentially weeks to hours. He said in a year, they can typically see around 1,500 juveniles. Sommers said that number shows that the services are much needed.

“We are here for them," Sommers said. "That’s why we extended the hours on the MARC center. We are here to make their children that we come in contact with successful. That’s what we try to do. We try to not give up on a child. And as long as we are here, and as long as this office is around, we will not give up on the children.”

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