Growing up in Johnson County has its risks, but a panel discussion by that name at Colonial Church Sunday night laid out how those risks are being addressed and how the community and parents can lend support.
Adam Taylor of the Prairie Village Police Department, Don Hymer, a Johnson County assistant district attorney, and Janie Yannacito with the Johnson County Mental Health Department told how they are trying to help children grow up safely. “Our goal,” Hymer said, “is to create a responsible adult by the time they turn 18.”
“Ninety-five percent of the kids we deal with are just making dumb decisions,” Hymer said. “Less that five percent are a danger to the community (and need more of an adult approach).” The most frequent charge for those who violate the law, is minor in possession of alcohol – from 300 to 500 cases per year. Also frequent is shoplifting, and when it comes to felonies, burglaries from cars and garages are high on the list.
Juveniles are going to be placed on probation usually and a lot of intervention programs are available to help them correct the path. Only about 35 juveniles per day are in detention, a low number for the size of the county, he said. Those in detention are violent offenders or multiple repeat offenders, he added.
Taylor, a resource officer at Indian Hills, said, “I am there for safety and security. I am the soft image of law enforcement.” Asked about social media, Taylor said he tells students to “be aware of what you are posting.” Taylor advised parents to have the user name and password for social media accounts. It’s important not to put personal information online, he said. “There are predators out there.”
Yannacito said her department works closely with schools and community based services. When you hear about a national tragedy, such as a school shooting, she said, there has not been a lot of intervention or successful intervention with the student. “We see a lot of parents who are afraid of their kids,” she said.
The cuts in funding has had a detrimental impact on mental health services, prevention programs and the services to the developmentally disabled, Yannacito said.
Colonial Pastor Aaron Roberts posed questions to the panelists.