Source: (2000) Paper presented at the Reducing Criminality: Partnerships and Best Practice conference. Perth, 31 July – 1 August 2000. Canberra, Australia: Australian Institute of Criminology.

The role of police in dealing with young offenders (i.e., those aged between 10 and 18 years) in South Australia is increasingly one that extends beyond simply arresting and prosecuting offenders. One possible approach to meeting the demands of proactive policing is to assign some responsibilities to non-police with skills in the areas to be addressed. The present study examined the opinions of operational police officers on the deployment of civilian Youth Development Officers (YDOs) in a metropolitan police station. Two YDOs were employed in 1997 to liaise with police, youths, and appropriate support services in the district, with the primary aim of diverting at-risk youths from the juvenile justice system. We surveyed 201 police officers, among whom officers with and without experience of the YDOs were represented in approximately equal numbers. The high level of acceptance and approval by police, both in principle and in practice, endorses the deployment of civilian specialist staff as an option to be considered in policing with young offenders. It is noteworthy, however, that officers with experience of the YDOs were both more strongly supportive of the program and more strongly of the view, already widely held among police, that the work done by such staff is not work that should be done by police.

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