Omaha probation officers told to stand down

Updated: Jun. 10, 2021 at 4:16 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - When it comes to all the gun violence in Omaha this past week, it’s getting so dangerous that even probation officers have been told to back off.

On any given day, probation officers in Omaha are monitoring 4,000 adults and 400 young people. Some of the officers work out of the courthouse, some from a building across the street. They are not armed.

They often go to the homes of those on probation to make sure rules are being followed as the court ordered — no guns no drugs, no new crimes — trying to get them to be productive citizens. Because of an uptick in violence, 6 News has learned probation officers, this week, have been told to stand down, and not do any home visits unless police are going to the home with them.

By 6 News’ count, during the past week there have been nine shootings and four homicides. The majority of the suspects are teenagers who already are part of the juvenile justice system. In fact, the two suspects from a week ago wanted in connection with a double murder at 29th and Bristol from last Thursday are still on the loose. The Fugitive Task Force is putting a lot of resources to finding the 16-year-olds.

Both teens have been on the loose for months. Moore left Nebraska probation’s radar in February, the same day he was supposed to go to a school in Arizona that deals with at-risk teens. Key skipped juvenile court over a charge of defacing a firearm.

Nebraska Probation Administrator Deb Minardi said that this decision is about keeping probation officers safe. There will be home visits, she said, but they’ll be strategic ones. And she reminds that only a small number of the 4,500 on probation in Omaha are violent.

No doubt this renews the debate over juvenile detention. Police officers 6 News has talked with police officers who wonder why these suspects seemed to be getting break after break in the juvenile justice system, believing the actions of the past week indicate they should have been lodged at the Youth Center.

Minardi said she “doesn’t give up hope” that the young people going through juvenile court can turn their lives around.

“We know that detaining youth, in general, is not good for youth. It tends to make youth worse,” she said. “So we don’t want to use that as an automatic response and make the situation worse.”

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