Juvenile Justice Services of Fremont County is requesting more money from the City of Lander this year to accommodate an increase in misdemeanor citations involving juveniles in town.
Over the past year, the City of Lander has issued 121 misdemeanor citations to juveniles, Youth Services assistant director Hattie Calvert told the Lander City Council during a work session Tuesday.
That’s up from 59 the year before, she said – “a pretty big jump.”
“And the largest amount of those (are) drug and alcohol citations,” Calvert added.
Of the 121 citations issued in the past year, Calvert said 22 involved alcohol and 45 involved drugs – up from 10 each the year before.
When Councilmember John Larsen asked Calvert if she had “any idea … what has brought about the rise” in misdemeanor drug and alcohol citations, she pointed to a possible increase in “accessibility” as well as a “continuing trend” of “ripple effects” from the COVID-19 pandemic when “kids were out of school.”
“Socially there’s just a variety of things families are really struggling (with),” she said. “And when our families struggle, our kids really struggle.”
Councilmember Julia Stuble asked whether an increase in local enforcement efforts might have contributed to the “pretty huge spike” in juvenile citations as well.
In response, Calvert talked about the number of citations originating within local schools.
“I would say that’s our biggest jump,” she said. “The kids don’t really seem to care what they’re doing within the bounds of the school, and that includes using or coming back to school under the influences. …
“There’s been a good amount of training (within) the school district to catch those individuals.”
Stuble wondered whether the new drug testing policy at Lander schools would further increase the case load at Youth Services, but Councilmember Melinda Cox clarified that citations won’t be issued as part of that program.
The current increase in citations represents a “significant problem,” however, Cox added, suggesting the city continue discussing ways to increase “accountability … through the court system.”
Mayor Monte Richardson said the conversation should include local prosecutors who can help the city “work toward that goal.”
The council did not vote on the Youth Services request during this week’s work session, which was intended to be a “non-action board meeting,” Richardson noted earlier.
For more information call the City of Lander at 332-2870.