Camp Hope aims to combat juvenile crime in Rockford

Published: Aug. 26, 2019 at 9:40 PM CDT
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A continuing issue in juvenile violent crime leads to a discussion to bring more youth crime prevention initiatives to Rockford.

One initiative is Camp Hope. It's a crime prevention strategy designed to help kids who come from homes where they are exposed to domestic violence.

"We don't need any more evidence to tell us that the root cause of our juvenile violent crime rate is violence in the home," says Jennifer Cacciapaglia of the Mayor's Office on Domestic Abuse Prevention. "75 percent of our young juvenile offenders arrested in 2016 and 2017 are cross referenced in police reports as having witnessed or experienced domestic violence in their home."

Camp Hope is already active in other cities with high juvenile crime rates. In Rockford, it was the only crime category that didn't go down last month.

"The future of Rockford, we're trying to keep them from falling either by the wayside, or into the criminal element or becoming victims," says Rockford Police Chief Dan O'Shea. "We get 10 percent, 20 percent success rate, that's 10 or 20 percent of the youth we're not going to have issues with later on for the next 20, 30, 40 years."

The community already hosts several outreach programs for the kids. O'Shea says he believes Camp Hope could reach a different group. "Square pegs don't fit in round holes, and everybody is not the same, and everyone doesn't respond to programs the same way," he explains. "Maybe Camp Hope will be a different way to approach a different section of kids who might respond to it."

The camp includes trauma initiatives that wrap around healing. It's a week long trip, and could host hundred of kids. City council approved the proposal at Monday night's meeting.

Some council members raised concerns over Rockford funding the initiative, but allowing other communities to benefit. Member Venita Hervey says she would like to see a program that benefits Rockford alone, since the youth needs it most, and since the city will fund it.

The Mayor's Office of Domestic Abuse and Human Trafficking Prevention applied for the camp enrollment program. They were accepted, but now need to find someone to take over as the safe neighborhood coordinator by October in order to move forward with the planning process.

That position will be funded by the city for a year. The additional two years are covered by a grant.