The Jan. 5 edition of Evanston RoundTable included an article called “A Report From Last Year and Thoughts On 2011 From the Evanston Police Department.” In that article, the question was posed on how the Police Department might aid in not only the response to violence but the prevention of violence.

Police Youth Services and Juvenile Bureau work together to specifically do just that: prevent the escalation of more severe and serious future adult crime through early intervention of both youth crime and non-criminal youth and family incidents resulting in police intervention.

Police Chief Richard Eddington reorganized the structure of police social services so that both youth social services and the juvenile bureau have more immediate and direct supervision by a single police commander. This has created a closer and more team-oriented approach to addressing, not only youth crime, but also non-criminal youth-related incidents.

This means that those department personnel most trained and skilled and in the most contact with Evanston youth and their families are now consulting and advising one another on the most needed and meaningful intervention for youth-related situations.

Furthermore, the supervising commander is highly skilled in understanding and working with intersections at which the perspectives and training of social workers and police and civilians may conflict – a historical barrier to integrating these efforts. The commander’s supervisory skills have resulted in an increase of interdepartmental communication and understanding between juvenile bureau detectives and Youth Services social workers. The community deserves to understand this remarkable collaboration.

Preventing community violence, like addressing any societal problem, typically requires corrective interventions from numerous angles. The Evanston Police Department’s Juvenile Bureau and Youth Services possess an angle that is unique for several reasons, including the following: the Department’s advantageous position to be informed about both the details of a youth’s situation and the larger community picture of factors that may be contributing to a youth’s aggressive behavior; the ability to impose an array of meaningful and significant interventions, such as victim-offender conferencing, peace/mediation circles; social service recommendations to probation and court services; and our working relationship with the community of Evanston service providers.

That relationship enables Youth Services to facilitate and coordinate referrals and community social services to help youth and their families.

One more important fact greatly contributes to EPD’s unique position: the way in which the Evanston community – residents in general and specifically parents – turn to the police for help, not only in matters related to criminal behavior, but also to help with an array of non-criminal, interpersonal, psychiatric and behavioral youth and family problems. The Police Department is one of the first, often the first, community resource that parents turn to for help.

With all of this information in mind, the Chief’s vision for a meaningful, well-integrated and coordinated police response to youth and family difficulties is a perfect example of violence prevention.