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Duncan works on solution after juvenile detention center budget cuts

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DUNCAN, Okla._A facility in Duncan, designed to help juveniles, has been hit with a 70 percent budget cut and that's left city leaders scrambling to make ends meet.

The Community Intervention Center of Duncan's yearly budget will drop from nearly $180,000 in 2014 to just over $53,000 for 2015. Because Duncan police cannot place juveniles in jail, the center's purpose is to house the young arrestees until family picks them up. They are also responsible for providing counseling for troubled youths in the community.

The cuts were issued in the Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs initial 2015 budget reports. Out of the nine intervention facilities in the state, Duncan will be by far the hardest hit. While Oklahoma City is only seeing a five percent cut from their $245,000 budget, Lawton is seeing nearly 40 percent in cuts from $271,000 annually. But Duncan's budget tumbled all the way down to just $53,000 for 2015, making that a 70 percent cut. That cut could mean loss of all full time jobs at the facility and overtime for some city workers that already have their hands full.

John Herdt with the Youth Services of Duncan has worked with the city's juveniles for over thirty years. And this year, he's bracing himself with the biggest cut he's ever seen in his career.

"We have four full time staff and five part time staff and as it stands, with us just having $53,000 from $179,676...we're basically going to be losing most of our staff and we'll have to go to some sort of on call system," said Herdt.

That on-call system would only allow a maximum of one person at the center at one time with volunteers called at different intervals. But those hundreds of children who walk through the center's doors each year won't stop coming.

"Most all of the youth that have been brought here last year have been first time," explained Herdt.

The strain continues outside the center as the Duncan Police Department will now be forced to handle these juvenile offenders on their own. In addition to being a police officer, Duncan's finest will now be personally responsible for these children around the clock, until their parents can come pick them up.

"Prior to the intervention center, if an officer picked up a juvenile, he had no place to put them. You start adding hours to officers that aren't out on the streets. Cause they have to be there. You can't leave the juvenile by themselves," explained Duncan Police Chief Danny Ford.

That has both leaders hoping for a solution.

"We work to keep our response times to a minimum and its very frustrating when you've accomplished that but now I don't know how severely impacted we'll be," said Chief Ford.

"It may not be over until it's over," said Herdt.

Herdt says they're hoping to gain some of that money back by fighting back. They're working with Oklahoma House Speaker Jeffrey Hickman on contesting the cuts through a newly-passed law that says intervention centers can only have a maximum budget cut of 1.75 percent.

The Office of Juvenile Affairs would not comment on the situation until its final 2015 budget was completed.

 

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