County Attorney creates team for special juvenile cases - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

County Attorney creates team for special juvenile cases

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Jefferson County Attorney Mike O'Connell Jefferson County Attorney Mike O'Connell
Erin White Erin White
Marta Miranda Marta Miranda
David Finke (in center of picture) David Finke (in center of picture)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - A special unit has been created by the Jefferson County Attorney that will be dedicated to sexual assault and violent juvenile court cases.

County Attorney Mike O'Connell named Erin White, former Assistant Commonwealth Attorney and a former social worker, to be the prosecutor. O'Connell said having one prosecutor spearhead the program will add more consistency to prosecuting juveniles and protecting victims.

"Last year in court under our office records we handled 158 domestic violence cases and 74 sexual assault in juvenile court," O'Connell said.

There could are likely even more cases. According to O'Connell, nationally 33 percent of teens in a violent dating relationship never report it.

The Center for Women and Families said in the Algonquin, Park Hill and California neighborhoods, one in three juveniles said they had some sort of sexual violation. When their parents were surveyed, 82 percent said they don't think it's an issue. It's numbers like these that O'Connell says must change.

"When only one person is the one who's evaluating the cases," said White, "who's making the offers and who is determining what's appropriate for each level of case, I think that naturally there will be more consistency when they're only one person doing it."

"What we know is that if we hold youth and perpetrators and everyone accountable early, what happens is, that it really derails those folks growing up to be adult perpetrators," said Marta Miranda, CEO of The Center for Women and Families.

A specialized victim advocate and Seven Counties Services, Inc. will partner with the unit to give adolescent-specific counseling to victims and perpetrators. Miranda said the perpetrators aren't too far gone, the counseling works.

"I did seven years of perpetrator treatment in Florida," said Miranda. "The younger you're able to work with those perpetrators, the easiest it is to derail that coping and those habits and that history for them."

David Finke with Seven Counties Services said you can't just arrest the juveniles and expect the problem to go away.

"We're neglecting a huge responsibility to our community if we just say that at the age of 11, 12 or 13, if they're committing this crime, than therefore they're a criminal and there's nothing we can do about it," said Finke.

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