Instead of dropping him at a juvenile detention center, a Portland police officer took a shoplifting suspect to a nondescript building called the Reception Center, a safe haven for teens picked up for minor offenses. The center, open 24 hours a day, provides an alternative to detention as well as immediate attention before youths graduate to more serious crimes, says The Oregonian. The five-room center run by Janus Youth Programs grew out of a pilot program that started in 1998. It has evolved to become a national model, drawing juvenile authorities from across the U.S. to figure out how to replicate it in their communities.
Staffed by a supervisor and eight crisis specialists and funded by the county at $281,000 a year, the center, at a new location, can share staff and resources with an adjacent emergency shelter for runaways. “We’re taking a tag-team approach,” said supervisor Sulma Flores. Since the center opened, the number of youths referred to it has grown, from 236 in 1998 to an average of 1,400 to 1,500 a year since 2001. Meanwhile, the number of youths taken to juvenile detention has dropped.