Special meetings on crime: HHS director, who oversees juvenile justice system appears before committee

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MILWAUKEE -- FOX6 News on Monday, July 11th heard unique insight on juvenile crime from someone who oversees the juvenile justice system in Milwaukee.

Health and Human Services Director Hector Colon went before the Milwaukee Common Council's Public Safety Committee Monday and was grilled about a surge in crime in the city.

Colon oversees the Milwaukee County's juvenile detention facility, which has become increasingly overcrowded because judges are sending fewer offenders to Lincoln Hills, which is under investigation for abuse allegations.

Hector Colon

Hector Colon

An administrator with the HHS told committee members it is important to not only know where offenders are being sent for punishment, but to also understand where they came from:


"Nationally, about two-thirds of the youth that end up in the juvenile justice system have experienced some type of abuse or neglect, some type of maltreatment at home," Mark Mertens, Milwaukee County HHS administrator said.

The 120-bed juvenile facility in Milwaukee County reached capacity 32 times between January and April.

Colon is the sixth city leader to go before the Public Safety Committee to talk about crime problems in Milwaukee.

Below is a statement from the Department of Health and Human Services on this meeting:

Milwaukee County Department of Health and Human Services Director Héctor Colón and Delinquency and Court Services Administrator Mark Mertens today shared the complicated picture around youth crime in Milwaukee County and opportunities for change during a presentation to the City of Milwaukee’s Public Safety Committee.

“We want to applaud Mayor Tom Barrett, Alderman Bob Donovan and Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton for taking this proactive step to bring local department leaders together to discuss this issue and explore ways to work together more,” says Director Colón. “As a community, we all feel the painful impact of youth crime and violence and we all want our youth to grow up and lead healthy and productive lives. However, we are facing serious challenges today that require us all to work more closely together. We must look at the social factors that contribute to youth crime, we must look at the best ways to help youth develop the strong cognitive, social and emotional skills they need to succeed and we must closely evaluate our current juvenile justice system and ask the tough questions. Is our system really serving youth the way it is intended to? Our Delinquency and Court Services Division uses evidence based programs to match youth with the right level of programs and we work closely with a number of community-based agencies to provide critical monitoring, treatment, and support services for youth as ordered by the court or otherwise indicated in their service plans. We believe the current juvenile correctional institutions in our state are outdated and failing our youth. We hope to work closely with our City’s leaders, our County’s leaders and the state to bring about major changes that will keep our public safe and give our youth a better chance.”

Click here for the full Presentation to the Milwaukee Common Council Public Safety Committee.