NYPD officers try to steer juvenile robbers away from crime by following them around and helping their families
The New York City Police Departmenthas embarked on a novel approach to deter juvenile robbers, essentially staging interventions and force-feeding outreach in an effort to stem a tide of robberies by dissuading those most likely to commit them.Officers not only make repeated drop-ins at homes and schools, but they also drive up to the teenagers in the streets, shouting out friendly hellos, in front of their friends. The force’s Intelligence Division also deciphers each teenager’s street name and gang affiliation. Detectives compile a binder on each teenager that includes photos from Facebook and arrest photos of the teenager’s associates, not unlike the flow charts generated by law enforcement officials to track organized crime.The idea, in part, is to isolate these teenagers from the peers with whom they commit crimes — to make them radioactive.“We are coming to find you and monitor every step you take,” said Joanne Jaffe, the department’s Housing Bureau chief. “And we are going to learn about every bad friend you have. And you’re going to get alienated from those friends because we are going to be all over you.”The police also keep tabs in more covert ways.Detectives spend hours, day and night, monitoring the Facebook pages and Twitter accounts of teenagers in the program, known as the Juvenile Robbery Intervention Program, or J-RIP, and of their criminal associates. To do so, detectives create a dummy Facebook page — perhaps employing a fake profile of an attractive teenage girl — and send out “friend requests” as bait to get beyond the social network’s privacy settings.At the same time, officers seek to forge relationships with the teenager’s family, drawing them in with perquisites like a hand-delivered turkey on Thanksgiving Eve and toys and brand-name sneakers for younger siblings. Officers also provide tailored help, shuttling family members to doctors’ appointments, connecting them with alcohol and drug-abuse counseling and filling out applications for low-income housing, food stamps, child support and child care.