New MARC project aims to keep kids away from crime

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Savannah leaders are hoping a brand new multi-agency resource center will keep kids from cycling through the court system and continuing on a path to more serious crime.

The MARC will get kids and their families in touch with services early on in hopes of breaking the cycle of crime that in some cases can last for generations.

During Thursday's Savannah City Council work session, leaders with Chatham County Juvenile Court didn't mince words when describing why a facility like MARC is needed in the community. Juvenile Court Judge Lisa Colbert said when it comes to dealing with kids with curfew violations, who are truant or run away from home, help is lacking.

"Often, those children are brought to juvenile court, and I'll be honest, we don't do very well with them. We typically do better with the higher-risk kids, and so we're not really set up to deal with them well," Judge Colbert said.

Judge Colbert said currently, they don't hit the mark on early intervention, helping children with mental and physical health issues, as well as in follow-up efforts.

"Where there's no follow-up, those services don't happen, and then, in the short five years I've been there, I see those children come back with escalated issues."

Escalating issues council members are all too familiar with, seeing violent crime play out in their community, all too often involving young people.
MARC supporters made their case for the center with a few visual aids, this one showing the number of juvenile arrests over the last five years. The arrest rate doubles from age 15 to 19.

"The person with the gun and the handcuffs is not the one who's going to get that kids attention and the MARC allows a counselor to do this and also allows for a follow-up, because you can't solve the whole thing on a Saturday night. Somebody's got to be back there on Monday morning and say, 'okay, what are we doing about this,' said District 4 Alderman, Julian MIller.

When it comes to the center, the city holds the lease and will be handling big repairs to the building and insuring it. The county will rent the facility and be responsible for all normal operating expenses. The county will also pay all utilities, with the exception of the fire fee.

Next steps for this MARC project include forming an advisory group and hiring a director before the grand opening this August. Once open, young people can come in on their own, with family, or be referred by police, juvenile court or the school system.

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