Focus on rehabilitating youth trauma could decrease crime down the road, advocates say

Local News

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Child advocates break down the impact domestic violence can have on a developing mind.

The City of Rockford hopes to hire a few more youth intervention specialists. The plan has to get through City Council first.

We spoke with proponents of the idea who tell us this could save lives in the long run.

Local law enforcement officers believe teaching those who’ve experienced trauma at an early age how to cope could help prevent violent crime moving forward.

“Anecdotally, we started noticing the same names coming back around of individuals who had been victimized now becoming suspects,” said Rockford Deputy Chief Kurt Whisenand.

Rockford police say after a deep dig into crime statistics, it became clear that kids who experience domestic violence are more likely to become offenders themselves.

“That’s been as high as 75% of those individuals who commit violent crimes as juveniles have either been victims or witnesses or some other way have been exposed to traumatic events in their childhood,” said Deputy Chief Whisenand.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spoken to officers who have said ‘is there something to be done before it gets to this point? We’re expected to do so much, and we just can’t do all of it,” added Jennifer Cacciapaglia of the Mayor’s Office on Domestic Violence and Human Trafficking Prevention.

Now, a plan to increase outreach to kids who’ve experienced trauma is moving forward.

Monday, the city’s Finance and Personnel Committee approved a budget increase for the Mayor’s Office on Domestic Violence and Human Trafficking Prevention. It would allow the office to hire three new full-time employees to focus on youth intervention.

“It’s really getting it to the professionals who should be handling these problems so that not everything is piled on the shoulders of the police,” said Deputy Chief Whisenand.

Deputy Chief Whisenand calls it a proactive way to cut down on violent crime in the Forest City.

“For 30 years in this community, we’ve battled a violent crime problem. Not just the police department, but the whole community. And we’ve sort of always attacked that problem at the end result. We’ve attacked the crime itself, rather than looking at the root causes,” Whisenand added.

The budget for the Office on Domestic Violence and Human Trafficking Prevention would increase from $250,000 per year to $500,000. The measure still needs to be approved by the full council.

That vote is expected next Monday.

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