Victoria City Council looks to beef up juvenile court program

Melissa Crowe By Melissa Crowe

Feb. 18, 2014 at 9:05 p.m.
Updated Feb. 17, 2014 at 8:18 p.m.

Victoria Municipal Court soon could have a new staffer heading up juvenile cases if the Victoria City Council gives final approval.

During Tuesday's council meeting, City Attorney Thomas Gwosdz presented a plan to study whether two fees totaling $6 would allow the court to expand its accountability program and whether that program would be viable for the city.

Because it's difficult to issue warrants to juveniles, accountability for juveniles is another obstacle. A juvenile case manager is a person on staff of the municipal court who would help track those juveniles through the system.

The city has never begun that program partly because state funding has never been up to the level to cover the entire cost of the program, Gwosdz said.

However, the most recent legislative session allowed for a new $2 fee applied to most citations that cities can split evenly with the state if the city has or is considering a juvenile case manager program. The remainder of the cost would come from another $5 court fee the city is not yet collecting.

Gwosdz estimates Victoria's court could bring in $38,000 to put toward salary and benefits for that position. The job description has not been set, but Gwosdz said it would involve managing the juvenile docket for the court and might be a blend of clerical and social worker responsibilities.

Councilman Tom Halepaska said it comes down to a multi-agency community concern.

He said it "very well can be" a positive tool for the city but said he wants to make sure it will be effective before voting on adding a new employee.

Tiffany Totah handles juvenile cases for the municipal judge and spoke at Tuesday's meeting. She said all juveniles have to see the judge; some cases include disorderly conduct, trespassing on school grounds, curfew and traffic violations.

"Any citation an adult can get, a juvenile can get," she said.

She said the program would allow the city to keep jurisdiction on cases that involve juveniles with two non-traffic related violations.



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