Police frequently encounter youth running away from home, violating curfew, skipping school, and chronically disobeying adults—misbehavior that can often stem from family conflict and that does not require justice involvement. When alternatives are not available, however, these behaviors can lead to arrests or detention. Families dealing with difficult youth behavior often unwittingly send their youth into the justice system by calling the police because they feel they have nowhere to turn for help. For police, encountering these kinds of situations can be frustrating because they feel limited to suboptimal choices: either ignoring the problem behavior or criminalizing it.
This brief explores the creative, collaborative, and community-focused work being done in Nevada, Connecticut, Nebraska, Michigan, Illinois, and Oregon to find productive responses to youth “acting out.” The juvenile assessment resource centers, crisis response centers, and crisis intervention teams in these jurisdictions address the needs of youth and connect families to resources and services without the need for juvenile justice involvement.