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Weslaco police chief makes first offender program a priority

Weslaco police is giving juvenile delinquents a second chance at getting their records cleared.

Weslaco police is giving juvenile delinquents a second chance at getting their records cleared.

It’s a program that state district judge, Renee Rodriguez-Betancourt, recommended to Weslaco police Chief Joel Rivera.

However, the police chief said it was one case involving a minor that made this program a priority.

"It was a heartbreaking case that I wish I could've maybe made helped out,” said Rivera. “It would've been a case tailored for this program.”

It’s a first offender program for minors who have committed a non-violent offense.

The juvenile would need to have a parent willing to also participate in the program and complete the courses, but Weslaco isn’t the only one that has it.

"I saw other successes such as the Mission Police Department, La Joya ISD Police Department, Edinburg Police Department, Pharr Police Department,” said Rivera. “I saw the contribution that it made into children's lives."

And so far, the level of success shows in numbers.

"So, out of the close to 150 kids, we have had less than 30 kids who have gone through the program repeat an offense,” said Chief Raul Gonzalez of La Joya ISD Police.

La Joya ISD Police has had the program in place for three years now. They are the first police department within a school district in the state to implement it and their results have been recognized by the state.

Gonzalez said they have received funding from the state that they plan on using toward buying laptops and iPads for the program.

For the first year, the Weslaco School Board will work with the city to get the program started.

Weslaco ISD has agreed to pay for half the cost of a case manager.

After that time, the city will be funding the program through general funds or grant, but through the program the city hopes to help minors transition to adulthood.

"Some of the things that could happen should a juvenile get arrested for a class A or B misdemeanor, is that it has implications that can follow them into adulthood and minimize their opportunities at being a successful productive citizen,” said Rivera.

The chief said they are expected to have the program up and running in the next 4-6 months.

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