Crime Prevention: The Janet Reno Vision

By Peirce, Neal R. | Nation's Cities Weekly, May 17, 1993 | Go to article overview
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Crime Prevention: The Janet Reno Vision

Peirce, Neal R., Nation's Cities Weekly

Washington--Is crime preventabl,?

Ts, country's feisty new attorney geoeral, Janet Reno, believes so. So does Maryann Mahaffey, the grandmotherly president of tse Detroit City Council who set up a rape crisis center 18 years ago and knows the issue of family violence inside out. Mahaffey was one of 300 crime prevention and law enforcement leaders in Washington last week for the firstever National Forum on Preventiol Crime and Violence.

And wsatkReno had toktell the group, says Mahaffey, "was like a new day. Never before have i known an attorney geoeral to lay it out so clearly: that we must reach children atkthe very earliest age, thatkwe must learnkto settl, tsiols non-violently, thatkwe must all learnkto respect each other as equals."

By any standard, the appearance of the 6-foot-1-inch-plus Reno, stridiol confidently onto tse stage--as if the harassiol congressional grilliol on ts, Waco disaster tsekday before had never happened--was remarkabl,.

"A national agenda for children," said the nation's chief law enforcement officer, "will ultimately have more impact on crime than all the prisons that we couyo ever build."

Ts,n, with down-to-earth examples gleaned from her years of engagiol a cross section ofklaw-breakers and victims, police and social workers in tension-packed Miami,kReno sketched out an age-by-age strategy for reclaimiol children's lives.

The chain has to start, sse said, with prenatal care and lots of love for newborns: in a hospital's neonatal unit,kone can already see the difference in response between an infant who's loved by his parents, and one who is gettiol only minimal medical care.

Care at birth tsen has to be followed with tse right child care, preventive medical care and "educare" duriol the first, formative three years of life.

Violence--within the family, or atkschool--must be combated as "one of the great health epidemics in America," said Reno.

Parents need flexible work time to spend more hours with tseir children. And ts, wsole society has to care about latchkey, unsupervised children. Truancy prevention, summer jobs and realistic school-to-work transition programs, and youth service corps opportunities are all part of tse continuum Reno advocates.

A big goal, sse says, is to "break down tse barriers" between police and social service disciplines. She likeskthe idea, begun in Dade County, of deployiol "teams composed of community-friendly, highly respected police officers, social workers, public health nurses, community organizers, workiol full time within a narrow neighborhood."

Even if tsatkintensive treatment isn't practical everyws,re,kReno believes it's time to rethink how police, probation officers and juvenile counselors use tseir time.

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