Public Information Officer
SHERIFF CHITWOOD TO LAUNCH JUVENILE OFFENDER MONITORING PROGRAM
A group of juvenile offenders is about to get some extra attention from the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office -- mentoring if they’ll accept it and enforcement action if they deserve it.
It’s all part of Sheriff Mike Chitwood’s two-pronged plan to combat juvenile crime with close monitoring of offenders coupled with the guidance and support needed to help troubled youths break the bad habits and behaviors that got them into trouble in the first place. A cornerstone of Sheriff Chitwood’s plan is an electronic ankle-monitoring program for juvenile offenders that today is one step closer to fruition. “This is a program that had a great impact on reducing juvenile recidivism when we brought it to Daytona Beach, and I’m confident that it will produce positive results now that we’re expanding it to the Sheriff’s Office,” said Sheriff Chitwood.
Sheriff Chitwood’s comments came Thursday morning after the County Council added its unanimous backing to the program with approval of a service contract with the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice. Under the contract, the Sheriff’s Office will monitor youthful offenders who are court-ordered to wear an ankle bracelet tracking device. The state is paying the county $56,000 a year to provide the service, which will include at least weekly, face-to-face contacts with offenders and around-the-clock response when an ankle monitor alerts officials to a potential violation, such as an offender who breaks their court-ordered curfew or leaves their house when they’re not supposed to. State juvenile probation officers currently conduct the monitoring services -- there are approximately 10 juveniles in West Volusia being monitored right now -- but the Sheriff’s Office has the added advantage of being able to provide a response around-the-clock.
Alert notices prompted by the electronic devices could run the gamut, from the innocent -- such as a low battery -- to a juvenile tampering with their ankle monitor or cutting it off and fleeing. Depending on the type of alert, the Sheriff’s Office could call the juvenile’s residence, conduct a home visit or dispatch a detective to find and arrest the offender. First and foremost, the program is about public safety and crime reduction. “The goal of the contract is to ensure youth receive required community based supervision through monitoring and response to system alerts 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,” states the contract.
But Sheriff Chitwood also emphasizes that the program is about more than monitoring and strict enforcement. It’s also about providing young people with the support, tools and life skills to break the cycle of crime and transform youthful offenders into productive, law-abiding young adults. To do that, the Sheriff’s Office will meet regularly with juveniles ordered into the monitoring program -- not only to make sure they’re complying with court orders, but also to help identify and address underlying issues and connect offenders with helpful community services, such as literacy assistance or tutoring. In Daytona Beach, when Sheriff Chitwood implemented the program as the city’s former police chief, more than 60 percent of participants didn’t re-offend during their first year of monitoring.
“This is a very proactive and progressive program,” said Sheriff Chitwood. “We don’t plan to just sit around and wait for an ankle monitor alert to go off. This is about building relationships, changing behavior and changing lives -- one youth at a time.” With the contract approved, the next steps for launching the initiative will be the hiring of a management specialist to help run the program and the training of Sheriff’s Office employees to use the program’s tracking software. “This is going to be a great program for the citizens of Volusia County,” added Sheriff Chitwood. “We’re excited and ready to go.”
Administrative offices: West Volusia 386-736-5961 Daytona Beach 386-254-4689 New Smyrna Beach 386-423-3352
Non-emergency dispatch numbers: DeLand 386-943-8276 Daytona Beach 386-239-8276 New Smyrna Beach 386-409-8276 Osteen 407-323-0151