Huntley's new teen beat cop hopes to prevent juvenile crimes
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With a growing teen population, Huntley also is seeing an uptick in crimes committed by juveniles, police officials say.
To combat the problem, the Huntley Police Department has assigned a new teen beat cop.
Officer Adam Dean will be making the rounds on his bicycle through Huntley neighborhoods this spring as the police department's new juvenile specialist.
A 10-year police department veteran, Dean took on his new role in January.
Often interchanging between his police uniform and a "normal" shirt and tie, the 33-year-old hangs out in the community trying to build rapport with youths by keeping up with current trends and learning their cultural lingo.
"It's all about how you connect and your approach," Dean said. "Not only am I a disciplinarian, I could be a teacher. I could be a counselor."
Officials are anticipating an influx of juveniles in the next couple of years.
The student population at Huntley High School — whose current enrollment is roughly 2,700 students — is expected to peak at 3,000 as early as the 2016-2017 school year, according to Huntley District 158.
Meanwhile, though overall crime in Huntley for 2013 was down 7 percent from 2012, juvenile crimes, such as property damage, graffiti in the parks and vehicular burglaries are rising, Huntley Police Deputy Chief Todd Fulton said.
"This position was created to try to be a preventive type thing," Fulton said. "One of the biggest reasons for this position is to try to deal with the juveniles that are coming to the area. It's a proactive response to any future problems that may be coming up."
Dean's job involves not only supporting Huntley High's school resource officer, but also interacting with youths on their own turf, such as on basketball courts and in neighborhood parks. He was trained as a juvenile officer on interrogation tactics and also learned to think like them, he said.
"The mind of a juvenile is very different from an adult," Dean said.
The biggest difference with this generation is how much of its interaction is on social media sites, such as Twitter and Facebook.
Dean said social networking also has contributed to a growing problem in schools today — bullying.
Getting to these youths at a young age is key to preventing them from becoming troublemakers down the road, he added.
For a couple of years, Huntley has been running a teen camp for middle schoolers entering into high school.
"It's a three-day camp that talks about bullying, harassment, teen dating, drugs, and all the things they might encounter in high school and how to better deal with those types of situations," Dean said.
Police departments in Algonquin, Huntley and Lake in the Hills also have joined forces to establish a peer jury system dubbed the Tri Area Court for Teens or TACT.
"They deal with more of the petty crimes," Dean said.
The monthly teen court often metes out punishment in the form of ordering youths to write essays or perform community service.
Dean said he hopes to solicit ideas from youths as to their needs in the community. An apparent need is places where youths can hang out in a lawful way and stay out of trouble, he added.
"I know we're going to be speaking to the community, going to host like a town hall forum for any kind of juvenile topics," Dean said.
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