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UNIVERSITY PARK : It's Back to School for Juvenile Officers

February 14, 1993|JAKE DOHERTY

With more than half of all Los Angeles crime committed by juveniles, some law enforcement professionals are going back to school to find new ways of keeping youths out of trouble and out of the criminal justice system.

Clyde L. Cronkhite, director of USC's Delinquency Control Institute, said Los Angeles police arrested more than 26,000 juveniles last year. For professionals working to prevent and control juvenile delinquency, the institute twice a year offers a six-week program that covers a range of topics, including child development, crisis intervention, gangs and inter-agency coordination.

"The (criminal justice) system hasn't changed much and still declines to do anything until juveniles become hardened," said Cronkhite, a former deputy police chief in Los Angeles and a former police chief in Santa Ana.

Since 1946, more than 5,000 men and women have graduated from the institute, including a class of 35 that graduated last week. The most recent class included seven officers assigned to divisions or agencies in South-Central or Central Los Angeles and officers from Arizona, Idaho, Iowa and Russia.

Narcotics and gangs are the most serious challenges, but child abuse and teen-age suicide also warrant attention, Cronkhite said. The institute, the only one of its kind in the country, gives participants a chance to devise creative solutions to old problems, he said.

With juveniles, one problem often spawns another. For example, many gang members have been the victims of child abuse, said Rudy DeLeon, a former police captain and a gang expert.

Similarly, many teen-age parents are often ill-equipped to cope with their new role. "We require a driver's license to drive a car, but no special training to become a parent, which is the most important responsibility in life," said Officer Jason Eisenberg, who works on child abuse cases.

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