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Youth Advocacy Program (Y.A.P.)

Youth Advocacy Program
Detective Jorge Armenta, Los Angeles Police Department

During 1989, the City of Los Angeles Community Development Department was tasked with the responsibility to develop a master plan to coordinate the efforts of community-based counseling agencies within the City of Los Angeles. In February 1990, the Commanding Officer of the Los Angeles Police Department’s (LAPD) Juvenile Division was asked to participate in the City of Los Angeles Advisory Task Force to coordinate the efforts of developing a diversion/referral program for at-risk youth. The LAPD Juvenile Division began work to unite the existing LAPD Referral Program and the City’s Youth Advocacy Program.

The Youth Advocacy Program (YAP) was designed to form an early intervention system which would refer qualifying at-risk youth and their families to referral agencies, offering treatment and counseling programs to them with the goal of reducing criminal activities and hard-core juvenile delinquency. The program was to operate out of the Juvenile Unit of each LAPD Division.

Following Department procedures, juvenile investigators may exercise limited discretion on the disposition of juvenile offenders arrested for a criminal charge under the provisions of 602 of the Welfare and Institution Code (WIC). In most cases, the investigator would request a petition to the juvenile courts through the District Attorney’s Office and the Probation Department for the matter to be addressed in court. On occasion, if the offense is minor, the investigator may send the matter to a referral program.

Juveniles who are eligible for the YAP include first and second time arrestees for 601 and 602 WIC offenses, juveniles who are not arrested but are at risk of becoming involved in criminal behavior, juveniles cited to Juvenile Traffic Court and referred back to the citing area for counseling and/or community service, juveniles detained by the Los Angeles Fire Department for fire-setting, and juveniles who are not on probation/parole or who are not gang members. Priority for this program is given to arrested juveniles over non-arrested referrals.

Once referred to the YAP, the juveniles and their parents are directed to the proper community service agencies coordinated by the Family Development Network (FDN) under their YAP for counseling and enrollment into the program. Additionally, the Department and the agencies work in cooperation with the City Attorney’s Parenting Program (CAPP), providing counseling and parenting education to the parents or legal guardians of the referred juveniles.

The juvenile and the parents must report to the referral agency for the initial appointment and sign an agreement to attend regular appointments at a designated YAP agency. When the juvenile and parents fail to comply with the referral agreement, the referral agency will notify the Referral Unit of the Department’s Juvenile Division. Juvenile Division will in turn notify the division having arrested the juvenile and a petition for the juvenile’s arrest charge will be filed with the Juvenile Court.

The officers making the initial YAP referral are required to use a YAP lead assessment agency to determine the needs of the juvenile and their parents.

There are 10 Lead Agencies within the four Los Angeles Police Department Bureaus. Within Valley Bureau, there are two Lead Agencies, Los Angeles Mission College in Sylmar and San Fernando Valley Neighborhood Legal Services in Van Nuys.

The Lead Agencies ensure that the juvenile and their parents are offered group and individual counseling, tutorial services, parenting education, extended school programs and recreation and sports programs. The juvenile will be required to attend a minimum of ten in-person counseling sessions with a counselor/caseworker to complete the program.

Department personnel refer between 90 and 100 juveniles to YAP agencies each month. Of that number, 90 percent of the juveniles complete the counseling established by the agencies. A recent audit indicated that nearly 80 percent of the juveniles referred to YAP had not been detained for delinquent behavior in the year following completion of the program.

Emphasis is strongly placed on parenting education by the Lead Agencies with the goal of offering parents a tool to assist them in becoming better parents. Parenting programs are designed to provide a neutral area where parents and juveniles gather and work together, exchanging information and exploring ways on how to return their children back to the mainstream of society and away from the lure of drugs, gangs and other juvenile criminal activity. If it becomes apparent that the parents are unable or unwilling to control the behavior of their children, they will be subject to prosecution by the City Attorney’s Office.

Recently new Lead Agencies have been included into the YAP. These agencies are in the process of establishing their programs to serve the juveniles and their families referred to them by this Department.

Youth advocacy intervention has shown to be helpful in reducing juvenile recidivism. We hope this brief survey of the Los Angeles City Youth Advocacy Program will assist other agencies in their development of similar programs.

About the Author:

Detective Jorge Armenta is the Detective Supervisor of the LAPD’s North Hollywood Juvenile Unit, and oversees criminal investigators, school enforcement officers, and other intervention personnel. He is a 27-year veteran of LAPD.