Few of the hundreds of youths referred to the Greene County Juvenile Office each year for possible criminal activity end up behind bars.
Chief Juvenile Officer Bill Prince said detention is deliberately reserved for the worst offenders, but he believes more can be done to keep children and youths in trouble for minor offenses out of the center completely.
He said too many of the 1,500 or so reports of delinquent behavior forwarded to his office each year end up generating juvenile cases against youths.
Prince, an attorney, estimates between 30 and 40 percent of those referrals ought to — and soon will be — handled through diversionary programs.
“We’d like to get to a point if a family comes to us in crisis — the first-time stealing or property damage, fairly minor stuff — that we’re not going to immediately open a case file on them in the system, where they stay,” said Prince, who has worked for the office since 1998. “If you open up a file on a kid, that case number and referral is there for as long as they are a kid.”