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More police on the way

BY NICOLE KARLIS | DECEMBER 10, 2009 7:30 AM

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The Iowa City police may soon welcome six new members to the team, including one specifically designated to work with teens.

The Iowa City City Council turned talk of the potential hirings into a reality when they passed a final reading on the city’s franchise fee Monday evening. The tax will increase residents’ utility bills an extra 2 percent this spring.

The money will be used to add six new officers to the Iowa City police and nine new firefighters to the Fire Department. The new personnel could be employed as soon as July 1.

Police Chief Sam Hargadine wrote in an e-mail he is confident a juvenile investigator would be one of the six officers added to the force.

This type of officer — one trained specifically to work with teens — has been on the council’s list to reduce crime in the city.

Iowa City officials would model a juvenile investigator position after juvenile officers on the Davenport police.

Davenport’s juvenile unit consists of five officers and a social worker who work with the School District and juvenile-court system, said Sgt. Paul McKee, the unit’s supervisor.

After gaining support from city officials, the police established the juvenile unit in the summer of 2007 at a cost of an estimated $225,000, he said.

Adding the six officers in Iowa City is estimated to cost $500,000.

Davenport juvenile detectives serve as mediators between juvenile-court officers and the School District, making the unit more successful when dealing with troubled teens.

“People think the quick fix is to lock the kid up,” McKee said. “But that’s not the case; that doesn’t change the behavior once the kid is back out in the community.”

While his juvenile detectives aren’t specialized social workers, they know how to deal with young people.

“Having a desire to help kids has to be part of that person’s makeup,” McKee said.

The duties of an Iowa City juvenile investigator, as Hargadine described them, would be similar to those of a Davenport juvenile detective. The officer would network with school officials, other juvenile officers, and the juvenile-court system, Hargadine said.

At present, no officer specializes in juvenile crime in Iowa City, although some officers work with the school system more than others, said Iowa City police Sgt. Troy Kelsay.

City officials hope that the new position will be a great addition to help assist troubled teens.

“Service to the community should improve with an officer specializing in juvenile crime,” Hargadine said.


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