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Sheriff concerned about unsecured youth facilities as law enforcement searches for minors who left

Posted at 7:20 PM, Oct 26, 2023

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Last Friday, four minors ran away from Radius, an unsecured place where youth receive court-ordered treatment.

Learn more: DCSO searching for four wanted juveniles

Douglas County Sheriff Aaron Hanson says an incident like this shows why facilities like Radius should have an option to lock their doors.

At Radius, doors alert staff if minors leave without permission and they immediately notify police, but it's not a locked facility. The law doesn't allow that.

"By having non-secure facilities like this, having that be our only option between detention or non-secure facilities, we are asking for a situation where the public is less safe," said Hanson. "And these young, high-risk, repeat offenders are less safe themselves."

Hanson says he supports Radius, but the program's hands are tied.

He and Radius say there are other instances of youth leaving the program since it opened in July.

"I think we need to stop being naive when it comes to the need for secure infrastructure for high-risk, repeat offenders, juveniles," said Hanson.

That's the heart of the debate over the new but yet unused juvenile justice center, which can hold fewer minors than the current facility.

Learn more: Move to new Douglas County Youth and Family Support Center will now take longer than originally planned

Douglas County Board Chair Mary Ann Borgeson has a different take: "You can't lock up every kid in the community and say we fixed it," she said.

She says Radius has provided an important and unique service since it opened.

Learn more: New multi-faceted facility for Omaha youth in juvenile justice system celebrates opening

"They stepped up, built a service in our community, and have taken kids from the current youth center," she said.

Borgeson says judges know the best option for each case and these things sometimes happen.

"We've made great strides in helping children and families in need in the community through our juvenile justice system," she said. "And we're gonna continue to do that."

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