KC’s Teens in Transition program helping to reduce crime among young people

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Teens in Transition started in 2014, and more than 150 students finished the program.

Since then, police say more than two-thirds of those teens haven't had any negative interactions with law enforcement.

Every summer, teens who have already had run-ins with police, or are on the verge of going down the wrong path, participate in the program and work on a piece of art.

High school-age kids in the Kansas City and Hickman Mills school districts can participate.

Kids, identified by school resource officers and teachers, spend three days a week, either at Arts Tech downtown or the Hope Hangout near Ruskin High School, with social workers and school resource officers.

They do art therapy by working together on a project and listen to guest speakers. Those speakers include the Jackson County prosecutor, Mayor Sly James and even FBI agents.

They learn conflict resolution and financial literacy. Plus, the kids get paid minimum wage, which is funded by the mayor's office.

Police Chief Rick Smith said two-thirds of the kids who finish the program don't have any negative interactions with officers after.

And he's seen other effects of the program, too, like better police relations. He said the program is beneficial for both officers and teens.

"We had huge issue of juvenile crime at Ruskin," Smith said. "We had car break-ins, burglaries, just huge issues. We started this program with our target audience, and crime immediately started to go down. And we think it's some of the influence of getting hold, as the mayor said, getting a hold of some of these kids that now can say, 'I don't want to be part of that.'"

The last day of classes for this year's session is Aug. 9. KC NOVA social workers and school resource officers will keep in touch with the students, continuing the anti-crime efforts.

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