CROMWELL, Conn. (WTNH) — Two hundred people came to a Cromwell hotel Thursday morning to work on the best ways to stop juvenile crime in Connecticut. It’s part of a day-long educational forum sponsored by the University of New Haven.
While high-profile juvenile crimes keep making headlines, today’s news comes from a room full of people talking about what they are doing to steer young people away from crime.
“Something has to occur for them to have that expected feeling that they can see themselves better than where they are,” said Janai Kemp, a student program manager at NXTHVN. “Creativity is a great way to cultivate the imagination for them to do that.”
NXTHVN is an art program in New Haven. In Hartford, the Compass Youth Collaborative is pairing at-risk youth with what they call “Peace Builders.”
“Engage them with relationships so that they can become ready, willing, and able to take advantage of education, workforce, and be better in life,” CEO of Compass Youth Collaborative Jacquelyn Santiago Nazario said.
When you talk to the people from the agencies and groups represented at the forum, you hear a lot about meeting the needs of young people. A young person whose needs are being met is not likely to turn to crime. There can be a lot of needs, but some are very simple, like a place to live.
“Our young people are not necessarily out there extremely homeless, what you see as a homeless individual, but they are couch surfing from home to home to home, and that’s housing instability,” explained Erika Nowakowski of the Tow Youth Justice Institute at the University of New Haven.
The Tow Institute hosted this day-long conference. It’s important to remember the crime trend is heading only down, according to Ken Barone, who studies crime at the Institute for Municipal and Regional Policy at UConn and says people think juvenile crime is increasing because it is shifting to the suburbs.
“We’ve seen substantially less crime in our major cities, and we’ve seen small increases in crime in surrounding suburban communities,” Barone said.
Those are communities unaccustomed to crime where things like unlocked cars are easier targets.