Police program aims to help teens leave crime

New program to include workshops, trips, leadership courses, lectures on how to stay clear of violence and crime.

broken window crime vandalism 311 (photo credit: Thinkstock )
broken window crime vandalism 311
(photo credit: Thinkstock )
Picture the following scene: A teenager from a broken home falls in with the wrong crowd, and before long, begins breaking and entering into businesses to steal. He is soon arrested, tried and convicted.
Now, the teenager has a criminal record and his chances of a normal draft to the army are low.
He amasses one conviction after another.
The youth drops out of school, becomes unemployable and could easily go on to a life of serious crime.
This is the scenario police are now hoping to preemptively stop with a new program called Mila (Hebrew for “word”) set to be launched on Wednesday.
“What’s special about this program is that it is being led by the commissioner [Insp.-Gen. Yochanan Danino]. He is sending out the message that he would like to prevent this, not only for youths, but for all of society,” said Dep.-Cmdr.
Meri Meir-Lazar, head of the Partnership Department in the Israel Police Operations Branch.
When the project begins, each of the approximately 70 police stations will have a staff of officers who will contact youths deemed by the Welfare and Social Services Ministry to be at risk of crime, she said.
The officers will form a group of troubled teens and meet with them twice a week at community centers. The group will undergo workshops, go on trips and take leadership courses, as well as hear lectures on how to stay clear of violence and crime.
“For us, success will mean that the youths will have no additional criminal cases opened against them,” Meir-Lazar said. Additionally, the teens would no longer view police as an enemy, but rather as an aid, she said.
“We’re also checking the possibility that the youths volunteer in their communities,” she added.
Meir-Lazar stressed that the project depended on the police’s cooperation with local authorities and government ministries.
“We’re leaving organizational ego out of this. These problems stem from society, and the whole of society must solve them,” she said. “We all have an interest in preventing this.”
The project is part of a larger shift in the approach towards community-based policing, which is being led by Danino.
As part of the change, the Community Policing Department went from being a marginal police body to taking up a central position within the organization in recent months.
“The police’s whole agenda is [now] community based,” Meir-Lazar said. “The commissioner would like the police to be in contact with every municipality through joint forums. We don’t have to wait for government budgets to get this started.”
On Wednesday, officials from the ministries of Welfare and Social Services, Education and Public Security will meet with police and local leaders at Tel Aviv police headquarters to launch the Mila program.