DROP IN DJJ REFERRALS The Escambia Juvenile Justice Council held a town hall meeting on June 13 to discuss juvenile crime in Escambia County. The council is responsible for helping develop a three-year delinquency-prevention plan for the First Circuit based on the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice’s Roadmap to System Excellence.
During the 2010-2011 fiscal year, the statewide average was 12 school-related delinquency referrals to the DJJ for every 1,000 students. Escambia County School District’s referral rate was 20 per 1000.
There appears to be a significant change in the number of juveniles placed into long-term programs in Escambia County between the current fiscal year and the previous one. During 2011-2012, 249 juveniles were placed into long-term programs in the county. If estimates are correct, that number was greatly reduced this fiscal year, which ends June 30.
“So far this year, it looks as if we’re going to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 130 to 150 so that’s down significantly,” said Paul Wallis, chief probation officer for Circuit 1. “We’ll know better those numbers in a few weeks.”
Increased use of civil citations could reduce the number of incarcerated juveniles even further. Wallis said parents and youth need to be educated on the benefits of civil citations, which offer first-time juvenile offenders, who have committed a non-violent misdemeanor, the chance to avoid entering the juvenile justice system.
“They go through and do what the program asks them to do and in the end, there’s not even an arrest record that they have to answer for,” he said. “So, it presents a huge opportunity for kids in the future but it’s just a matter of educating people and letting them know.”
TAR BALL BRIGADE At its June 12 meeting, the Santa Rosa Island Authority Board approved a motion to send letters to Pensacola Beach residents asking them to volunteer for oil monitoring duty now that the Coast Guard has pulled out.
According to SRIA Manager Buck Lee, the U.S. Coast Guard has extricated itself because they’re tired of monitoring. It’s not a financial issue because BP reimburses them.
The BP response team waits for calls. Those calls go through D.C. to Gulf Shores, then to their group. Often, according to SRIA staff, the oil can be washed away or buried by the time the information goes through the various channels, which can’t be circumvented.
Lee said they are finding at least 10 pounds of tar a week on SRIA’s eight miles of beach. Tourists are finding it as well, which concerns Lee.
BIPARTISANSHIP AT STATE CAPITAL Florida Senate President Don Gaetz (R-Niceville) stopped by the Independent News offices on June 13. When asked about the leadership surprises of the past legislative session, Gaetz shared the often-repeated stories of his friendship with Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford (R-Wesley Chapel), but he also praised an unlikely state senator—Senate Democratic Leader Chris Smith (D-Ft. Lauderdale).
“Chris Smith and I worked very closely together,” Gaetz said. “Democrats held more committee chairmanships than any previous [Republican] administration. Chris responded by being a constructive partner.”
He said that, thanks to Smith’s leadership, the Democrats didn’t “demagogue” issues.
“They were either constructive critics or helpful supporters,” Gaetz said.
MAYOR’S MOUTHPIECE Derek Cosson has been promoted to Mayor Ashton Hayward’s Press Secretary. The press secretary is a much more important position than Cosson’s former position, public information officer. He is now the official voice of Mayor Ashton Hayward. His words and actions are to be taken as coming directly from the mayor. In essence, Cosson is the mayor when he speaks or writes.