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Schools lose a youth services officer

By: Stephanie Dumm, News Messenger Reporter
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Lincoln high school students will get used to at least one new face this school year. The torch of youth services officer for the high school has passed from Officer Tim Jaekel to Officer Steve Krueger. “With the (city’s budget) reductions, we had to move Officer Krueger to the high school because they (Western Placer Unified School District) fund that position,” Interim Police Chief Joel Neves said. “The reason there was a change is the second youth services officer asked to come out of that position. We granted that and opted not to fill it at this point.” The second youth services officer Neves is referring to is Jaekel, who was assigned to the high school last August. Neves said Jaekel is now working patrol. Prior to this, Krueger was the youth services officer for the elementary and middle schools. He is also active with the Lincoln Youth Center and serves as executive director for the Police Activities League, according to previous News Messenger reports. Now the elementary and middle schools will no longer have an officer, according to Neves and Western Placer Unified School District Superintendent Scott Leaman. Neves said losing a youth services officer for the elementary and middle schools “is not a monetary savings because we still have a position, it’s just not for youth services officer.” “It allows us to have one additional patrol officer for calls of service,” Neves said. The News Messenger asked Neves if Krueger’s move to the high school would affect the youth center. “It will, as you can imagine he’s fulltime at the high school and that will occupy all of his time,” Neves said. “We’re working on a strategy where we will have other officers who stop by daily to interact with the kids for periods of time. However, it will not be a long-term visit at the youth center like they were accustomed to.” For elementary and middle schools, Neves said, “if there are police-related issues, they will have to call the dispatcher.” “From the police department’s standpoint, as staff has been reduced, we have to fall back to our core responsibility, which is police officers on the street to handle calls for service,” Neves said. The News Messenger asked Neves what Krueger qualities will bring to the high school. “Officer Krueger is a person that enjoys working with the youth, and he really does enjoy that so he’ll bring a lot of energy to his position,” Neves said. “He spends a lot of time working with the youth to make sure they’re heading down the right path.” Krueger told The News Messenger that he starts working at Lincoln High and Phoenix High schools on Aug. 19, which is the first day of school. Phoenix High is a continuation school. “It’s a challenge, definitely a different age group. I’m looking forward to working with teachers and administration,” Krueger said Tuesday. “It’s a unique challenge because they are older and a little more set in their ways.” Krueger said that “it was nice having two youth services officers” and is hopeful there will be two again in the future. “That depends on a lot of factors, like if we lay off officers,” Krueger said. Neves and City Manager Jim Estep have said since June that there will be four police layoffs if the proposed utility users’ tax doesn’t pass this November. Neves said the school district will pay for the full salary and benefits for Krueger’s position and that the district “places a high value on that position.” Some of Krueger’s duties at the high school will include “assisting with the orderly flow of vehicles in and out of school” as well as “working with school staff and particular issues that come up at the school.” School district Superintendent Scott Leaman said the youth services officer “assists the school.” “Kids are older and can get into more situations that aren’t good for them and the officer can intercede in whatever can come up during a year, from innocent disagreements to if there’s a theft on campus,” Leaman said. “Those are some of the things we would look at. For the very few times someone is doing something illegal, the officer can immediately intervene rather than us calling the police.” Leaman added that “there aren’t fights breaking out everywhere or illicit drugs every minute of every day.” “A lot of their youth services officer job is building relationships so they can intervene in the community, which affects the school,” Leaman said. Krueger said he’ll miss his time at the youth center but will visit. “I will still stop by on my off time and see the kids,” Krueger said. “I’ve got a lot vested in this place and I enjoy the kids.” Karen Hernandez, the Lincoln Youth Center director, said she’ll “miss” having Krueger around on a regular basis. “It’s going to be sad. He’s built such a great relationship with the kids and they count on seeing him,” Hernandez said. “It’s going to take a hit not having him here. We’ve been a really great team, the three of us (the third person being her husband Juan Hernandez).” According to previous News Messenger reports, the youth services officer position was reinstated July 28 2009 when the Lincoln City Council approved the partnership with the high school. “We didn’t have anybody for awhile and felt that it was missing so we worked on a contract for the high school,” Leaman said. “I think it’s lent to the sense of safety at the high school. There is a more secure feeling when there is a police presence.” The district’s budget committee deemed the high school’s youth services officer “one of the last things that should be cut,” Leaman said. Leaman said Jaekel’s presence at the high school will be missed. “He did a great job and is a fine officer,” Leaman said. “He built those relationships, was flexible, gave great advice to the administration and was approachable by students but when needed to intervene, he was there.”