Police receiving more calls to University Hts juvenile treatment center as riots become more violent

Posted at 12:13 PM, Jun 01, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-01 13:40:46-04

The scenes in body camera footage and surveillance video could be right out of a TV drama. 

But they're not.

They're playing out inside Bellefaire JCB in University Heights, a place meant to be a treatment for juvenile offenders, instead of prison. The facility is seeing more police calls since the start of the year and University Heights Prosecutor Michael Astrab says the calls are for more violent incidents.

"I don't want to throw a number on it, but it's a significant increase," said Astrab. 

Body camera video shows officers breaking up a riot in the winter where one staff member had blood dripping from her forehead. Another staff member was stabbed in the hand with a piece of a broken window. 

Astrab says he understands that any type of treatment facility will have pushing and shoving from time to time, "However when someone gets stabbed, I think we need to intervene," said Astrab.

In another video, a 14-year-old boy faced felony assault charges after being accused of choking a 17-year-old girl to the point where she was nearly unconscious.

In a third video, a girl leaps off desk towards another client, trying to get over a caregiver who stepped in to stop it.

"It's not so nuts to look at some of the things that go on around here and be concerned," said Bellefaire Executive Director Jeffrey Lox.

But Lox also says the increase in police calls does not mean the facility is out of control.

"What can look like aggression and violence and certainly, objectively, is, really is a fight or flight response to fear and trauma," said Lox.

Of the 28,000 children Bellefaire treats, only 100 of them live on site. It's those kids, who Lox says need the most help, who are involved in incidents where the police are called.

"You can have mental health and substance abuse issues and still behave in ways that society calls criminal," said Lox.

Lox also points out that some of increased spotlight on Bellefaire is because a new city administration was just elected in University Heights and isn't familiar with the work that's done at Bellefaire. The city and facility are planning to meet in a few weeks to figure out how to balance providing treatment with maintaining order.

"Don't tell us, 'Everything is fine, you can leave now,' because once the police are there, they have to investigate," said Astrab.

Bellefaire says they are in the early stages of developing upgrades to their facility that would make it easier to separate clients and could lead to fewer police calls in the future. They do not know when those upgrades might be started.