Montgomery public school program to return after rise in juvenile crime

Crime among young people is on the rise in Montgomery County. In fact, just earlier this month, Montgomery police charged an 8-year-old child with first-degree robbery and other charges for carjacking and pursuing a vehicle chase with law enforcement officials.

“I think this has been a trend now for really about the last 10 years,” said Daryl Bailey, the Montgomery County District Attorney. “We’ve always seen young people committing what I would consider crimes of youth, whether it’s stealing, graffiti or criminal mischief, those type of things. But what we [now] have been seeing is them going to more violent crimes such as robbery, assault, shooting into vehicles or shooting into houses and even murder, which is alarming.”

Bailey said there could be several reasons why this increase in violent crime has occurred.

“It starts in the home,” he said. “That’s not to blame parents because parents aren’t always responsible, but it does go back to what’s going on in the home environment, the location where they’re raised, who they’re hanging out with, their friends and that type of thing. The other side of that is some parents do [encourage] their children to go down the road that they’re going down, or that they have been down. They think it’s cute, or they think it’s funny. That is probably more rare, fortunately, than the other problem.”

Whatever the reason, Bailey said there is one way to combat and prevent crime among juveniles, and it starts in school. The Montgomery County D.A.’s office, Montgomery Police Department and Alabama Attorney General’s office will renew its I-LEAD program for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic. The program targets fifth graders in the Montgomery public schools system.

“That’s kind of the grade of last resort,” Bailey said. “If you don’t reach them by fifth grade, they’re probably not going to be reached. At that point in their educational career, they have a teacher or maybe a couple of teachers that really have a thumb on them. They know what’s going on in their private lives, their home life, they know their parents, they know their situation [and] they know their siblings. Teachers know everything at that point. When they move into middle school, where they’re changing classes and they may only be with a teacher for 45 minutes a day, there’s a lot more students and teachers don’t have that time [to connect one-on-one with students].”

Bailey began the I-LEAD program in Montgomery nearly 10 years ago. I-LEAD is based on the curriculum of Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey’s Project LEAD (Legal Enrichment and Decision-making) program. Active or retired law enforcement officials and educators host 22 different classes on topics ranging from bullying to choosing the right friend group. Bailey said one of his favorite topics to teach is financial responsibility and how to spend money wisely.

“[We’re talking] to kids about, what do you want to be when you grow up? What kind of money do you want to make? What kind of worldly things do you want?” he said. “We take all those items that they dream up, and we talk about how much it costs to own a house, how much it costs to own a car [and] what it takes to just live life. We look at jobs that they can have without a high school education. When we start comparing the price of the things that they want, they see very quickly they can’t afford it. Then, how about receiving a high school education or college education? They quickly realize how important education or having a job skill is.”

The program concludes with a class on professional athletics. Professional football and basketball athletes from the National Football League and state colleges like the University of Alabama and Auburn University discuss the importance of ambition and having career goals.

“A lot of our kids, male and female, want to be professional athletes,” Bailey said. “Out of a class of 15 young men, you’re going to have probably 12 to 15 who want to be professional athletes. The importance is not only to have professional athletes talk to them about the importance of education and choosing friends wisely, but also the importance of having a backup plan. It’s great that you want to be a professional player, but you need a backup. [You could] get hurt, injured or don’t make it [because] the statistics are against you even making it to that higher level. They need to have some type of backup plan, whether it’s education or training or trade.”

However, Bailey said the program is far more than adult-led lectures and assemblies; it is about student engagement.

“It [is] wildly successful,” he said. “What we do is not just go in and lecture the kids over these 22 class periods; we become part of the school. We participate in the graduation ceremonies [and] all the parties that they have throughout the year, whether it’s Halloween, or Valentine’s. We do PTAs with the parents. We just really become involved and adopt the school that we’re in. Anything we can do to reach our children and keep them out of the criminal justice system is worth it. It does take a lot of time. It’s not something that’s easy. It’s basically us taking a part time job, but I do think it’s worth it.”

Bailey said beyond teaching children valuable concepts, the I-LEAD program also positively fosters relationships between Montgomery youth and law enforcement.

“Investing in these kids’ lives all school year long, I become more than just the district attorney,” he said. “I become their friend. I become a mentor, someone that they look up to. Now, they listen to more of what you say [and] they respect more where you’re coming from. When they see me on TV they see, let’s just face it, a white guy in a suit making these decisions or talking about somebody’s committed crimes. But when I go into these classrooms now, I’m just Daryl. I’m Mr. Daryl. The reason for that is because they know you care. They know that you’re invested in their life.”

In addition to hosting lectures and seminars, law enforcement officials hold demonstrations for children to catch a glimpse into their daily life in the force. This includes canine demonstrations, driving force demonstrations, fire boat demonstrations and helicopter demonstrations.

More than 20 Montgomery public schools have already expressed their interest in the I-LEAD program this school year. Bailey said now the program needs volunteers. Active or retired police officers, educators, prosecutors and other adults may call the D.A.’s office at 334-832-2250 or visit the D.A.’s website at for more information on the program and how to volunteer.


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