SAN ANTONIO - A new judge is stepping in, hoping to make a dent in the youth gang problems plaguing Bexar County.
Judge Carlos Quezada, of the 289th Judicial District, hopes a new youth gang court program will help cut down on an increasing number of teens passing though the criminal court system who are in gangs.
“Open their eyes to outside of what they're used to,” he said. “Just to give them other options.”
Quezada is launching a specialty court program called Juntos on Aug. 1. It will provide family counseling, youth enrichment activities, job training and more face time with the judge.
“They're the young offenders that we think that they can benefit from a little bit extra help, a little bit more court time, a little bit of extra supervision,” he said.
According to statistics from the Bexar County Juvenile Probation Department, in 2017, 492 of the youngsters who passed through its system self-reported as being involved in gangs. In 2018, it was 594 youths.
The program will be on a volunteer basis and will target teens involved in high-risk crimes and those with a family history of gang activity.
Quezada said the key is spending more time checking in with the judge and talking to someone about what’s going on in their lives.
“It could be something as simple as mom is talking to him about cutting the grass at home,” Quezada said. “It's really simple things sometimes. And it could be as complicated as him picking up a new charge.”
The program will not cost taxpayers any extra money. There is a $5,000 annual grant the agency receives, which will cover minor costs to help treat the teens to pizza or an activity.
Quezada says those working in the agency will take on the extra caseload and put in more time to make the program possible.
“I think all of us feel in this program that even if it's only one person that we reach, even if it's one life that we save, it's worth it,” he said.
Copyright 2019 by KSAT - All rights reserved.