The Western New York Training Center for the Office of Children and Family Services, was the site for the inaugural meeting of the Finger Lakes Regional Youth Justice Team.
It's an opportunity for representatives from 20 agencies in the 12-county Finger Lakes Region to get together and share data and ideas that will help keep kids in school and out of the courts.
"We really needed to come and get local folks together from across the spectrum from law enforcement to social services to anyone that really deals with juvenile justice system in any way, and come together as a group to have a voice at the table, at the state level, as we're trying to push forward with reform efforts in New York State," said Tom Andriola, NYS Juvenile Justice policy director.
The team will ask for broad community involvement as it works to reform the state's juvenile justice system and strengthen communication between state policy makers and local stakeholders. It will also look at what programs are working, and those that aren't.
"When you look historically at the juvenile justice system, there have been very high recidivism rates. Many people look it as a system that's feeding the adult system. So if you're looking to see where we can really make a difference, this is a logical place focus, this is the beginning and if you can make an impact in the beginning, you can have an impact all the way through the system," said Mike Green, NYS DCJS deputy commissioner.
The goal of the youth justice team is to help young people avoid that early contact with police and the criminal justice system by creating programs and an infrastructure that will lead to a productive and crime-free life.
Green, the former Monroe County District Attorney, believes even violent offenders like Tyquan Rivera could benefit from community-based programs if the tendency for violent crime is discovered early.
Rivera was 14 years old when he shot Rochester police officer Anthony DiPonzio. He is currently serving a three-and-a-third to ten year sentence for attempted murder.
"I remember Tyquan's history and it started around when he was 11 years old and there were contacts with the police when he was around 11. So our hope is, if that's what you're looking at, make that first intervention at 11 a meaningful intervention. By the time he got to 14, he was obviously in a very bad place and it resulted in just a horrific situation. The hope here is that if you make those first interventions meaningful, you never get to that point at 14, 15, 16," Green said.
Programs for youth offenders vary from region to region. Youth justice teams from across the state will share their ideas with one another in an effort to provide the most appropriate therapeutic treatment in the least restrictive setting.