Wilson Police Chief Kenny Stewart and administrator Tammy Garig are working together with families in East Feliciana Parish as part of a plan to deter crime among area youth.
The plan involves working with the families of juveniles who have been delinquent, strayed in school or at home but have not yet been arrested.
Stewart and Garig have partnered with school administrators, school district officials, local judges, the district attorney and area jails and prisons for their On Track program.
“We get so many calls from parents and grandparents involving these unruly juveniles,” Stewart said. “Our goal is to show them what can happen if they continue down the wrong path. It’s like a ‘scared straight’ program but we like to call it On Track.”
Parents have to sign off on the program, as do the schools, since the students have to miss one day of school to participate. In the first phase of the program, the youth are taken through the court system, they talk with local law enforcement, judges, the district attorney and watch as offenders get sentenced in court.
The second phase of the program includes taking the juveniles to parish prison.
Three boys have already been through the On Track program and are in the follow-up phase, Garig said.
Four teen girls who got into trouble shoplifting were not charged for their crimes in lieu of working with Garig and Stewart.
Both visit East Feliciana Middle periodically to talk to school personnel and check on the status of youth who have posed problems in the past or to check on any that may be posing a problem now.
“We’re hoping to catch them early,” Stewart said.
“Many of these kids are from broken homes and are being raised by their grandparents, whom they walk all over,” Garig said.
Stewart and Garig have many combined years of experience working for the Department of Corrections, as well as for the police department. They say their training and experience working with inmates in the prison system has given them an edge, as well as a deeper understanding of offenders.
“We hope to challenge other law enforcement agencies in East Feliciana Parish to get on board and work with us to expand this system. It’s all about communication, and we can’t do it alone,” Stewart said.
“Someone has to start something somewhere,” Garig said. “This is a reoccurring issue, and the answer isn’t just to lock everyone up.”
Both say they are eager for Sheriff-elect Jeff Travis to take office so that all police department heads can begin working together and get on the same page regarding the On Track program.
Stewart said the program is working, and he and Garig believe it’s making a difference.
The department is working on another program to help youths. Plans for the Wilson Police Department’s Junior Deputy program have already been submitted to East Feliciana Superintendent Carlos Sam.