Thursday, February 1, 2018

Sheriff Frustrated With Youth Home Problems

LINDEN, TN- Sitting on 1000 scenic acres in the western part of Perry County is Youth Villages Deer Valley Campus. When you first drive up, it seems like a resort. Local Law enforcement say's its anything but peaceful.
On Tuesday, an emergency call was dispatched to the campus. The 911 dispatcher called for all available officers to respond to a "riot" at Youth Villages Deer Valley.

Within minutes, several deputies, state wildlife officers, and the sheriff had all arrived at the youth home.

Perry County Sheriff Nick Weems used a K-9 to help contain the situation. At the end of the incident, one staff member had been injured.

Weems told WOPC HD News that "the Perry County Sheriff's Office is getting fed up with this", the sheriff then talked about other incidents at the youth home. He said incidents like this and runaways are becoming far to common.

The sheriff said that the riot required his entire department to respond.

A records check showed that nearly 50 youth had run away from the youth home since 2010. The sheriffs office said that doesn't count all the calls for assistance to the camp.  A deputy said that they had recently been to the campus because a "teacher had been struck in the face by one of the kids."

The sheriff said "its time for them to put a fence around the property."

In a statement from Youth Villegas they told WOPC HD News "we are not going to build a fence. Deer Valley is an open campus, and there is a reason for that."

The campus director, Carlos Hawkins points out that Deer Valley is not a correctional facility requiring lock and key. He also said that the open campus is part of the process of helping the kids feel normal and its part of the treatment that helps them return to their families as soon as possible.

"If they don't fix their issues, I'm going to rally the commission and the County Mayor to ask them to relocate" Weems said.

Hawkins says “The Deer Valley Campus is one of Youth Villages’ oldest and most important programs. Every year, it allows more than 100 boys from Middle and East Tennessee to receive residential treatment for emotional and behavioral problems close to their families. Our staff work to help the boys overcome their challenges and return to their families, or find foster and adoptive families." 

In the statement Youth Villages said that try to work with the community and the police.  Hawkins said "We also want to be a good neighbor to the community members who, by and large, support our organization, whether through volunteering and mentoring, making donations or otherwise."

Weems counters: the community is tired of the runaways from the campus stealing from them and vandalizing their property. 

"It's not fair for out tax paying, law abiding citizens that live nearby Youth Villages to be afraid that every time they leave home, that they may be broken into by a runaway." Weems said. 

The company says that they monitor admissions, and place youth that are not typically threats to run away at the Deer Valley Campus. The campus has natural barriers, its over a mile from the cabins to the highway and  youth are supervised 24 hours a day. 

The campus director told WOPC HD News "Sometimes, despite our procedures, a child does leave campus without authorization. We will continue to review our policies and procedures to limit these instances and to ensure continued safety for all in our care, as well as a good relationship with our local law enforcement and members of the community.”

Sheriff Weems said that the new director of the campus has 'tried like no other director' and that he thought that "He[Director]needed help from the higher ups and we are asking that he gets that help."