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'Joyce' to monitor juveniles in June

YAKIMA - Juvenile offenders under supervision in Yakima County have another reason to stay on the straight and narrow, as Joyce will soon keep tabs on them.

That's JOIC, pronounced "Joyce," and the moniker is short for Juvenile Offender Information Center.

Toni Kirschenmann is Yakima County's juvenile probation supervisor, and she says JOIC is an on-line database that starting in June will allow officers to search for a youth's name to see if they are under a probation counselor's supervision.

She says it will come into play when officers detain a juvenile suspect. They can then look up his or her name in the JOICE database to see if they are under supervision.

"It gives more eyes on the ground," says Kirschenmann. "There's no way to follow all these kids 24/7. They may not be breaking the law, but there might be a probation violation."

She estimates there are 400 to 450 juveniles in Yakima County who have been court ordered to be supervised by a probation counselor.

If there is a match between the juvenile being detained and JOIC's database, the system notifies the juvenile's counselor right away.

The JOIC system is free to all Yakima County law enforcement agencies thanks to a corporate grant by software company Fourquarters.

Kirschenmann explained that officials from the company learned of the Yakima County Gang Commission's efforts and offered to help. She says the software and internet capabilities are valued at thousands of dollars.

Agencies linking into the system include the Sunnyside and Grandview police departments, as well as the Yakima County Sheriff's office.

"The chiefs have seen the prototype, and we have a go live date of June 1," Kirschenmann said. "At that point, all law enforcement officers will have the ability to search for a youth by name."

She said work is underway to not only make the technology available to the laptop computers officers carry in their vehicles, but to also create a smart phone app.

Kirschenmann emphasized that the county's juvenile court system will be responsible for JOIC and will monitor access to the program, which is open only to law enforcement.

"It's law enforcement and the courts coming together as a unit to develop a county-wide system," she said.

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