Featured Stories

Other Pamplin Media Group sites

Police partnership steps up juvenile crime prevention


Counselor works with at-risk youth in local schools

The Tigard and Tualatin police departments are pitching in to keep a vital resource for teenagers in the Tigard-Tualatin School District.

For years, the district has benefited from the federal Safe Schools/Healthy Students Initiative, a special grant that helps at-risk middle and high school students before the criminal justice system gets involved.

In part, the grant funded a juvenile department staff member to serve the Tigard-Tualatin School District, allowing families and schools access to the department in a more hands-on capacity.

The grant is meant to help schools prevent violence, reduce alcohol and drug abuse and increase access to mental health services.

The district hired a juvenile counselor to help at-risk students navigate the legal system, provide counseling and work with police.

The grant funding runs out in June, and funding for the counselor was due to end in the spring. But the two police departments have teamed up with the Washington County Juvenile Department to keep the counselor in the area.

The juvenile department will fund a counselor, who will work out of the Tualatin Police Department, the two agencies announced last week.

Should a student need to be taken into custody, the counselor will be able to use a Tigard Police vehicle to transport the student to Hillsboro.

“When we knew the grant was going to go away, we made the decision to have a councilor down there in the same task she has been doing,” said Milt Ewing, juvenile department manager. “We are getting involved early on in prevention, and it really does make an impact on kids’ lives.”

Ewing said the decision to collaborate with the Tigard and Tualatin police departments to keep the program going was “a no-brainer.”

Since the district started funding a counselor in Tigard and Tualatin, Ewing said at-risk students have received less referrals across the district and attend class more often.

“Kids aren’t referred to the juvenile department as much,” Ewing said.

That’s because the counselor often steps in to help at-risk teens long before they commit a crime and get involved with the legal system.

“She has driven to students’ homes and banged on the door to get them to class,” Ewing said.

Having a counselor on site is a boon for local families, he said. “I believe that we need to serve the kids where they are in the county,” Ewing added. “We’re regionally based out of Hillsboro, that’s quite a long ways away. It is a lot easier for our families to come down here to the Tualatin Police Department to have meetings with a counselor than it is to travel to Hillsboro.”

Along with being beneficial to families, it also allows the Tigard and Tualatin police departments to get back to work.

Counselors don’t have their own police vehicles, which can cause a delay if a student is arrested, Ewing said.

“We have to wait for a juvenile officer to go to Hillsboro and get a car, then drive all the way back,” said Tigard Police Captain Jim DeSully. “(Allowing them to use our vehicles) reduces the amount of time our officers are off the road.”

The three agencies started funding the project in September, said Tualatin Police Captain Larry Braaksma.

“We get our officers back on the road and in the schools while the juvenile department takes care of the juvenile in their facility,” Braaksma said. “It has already paid dividends in the last two months.”