SEPTA police are offering juveniles charged with minor offenses an interesting alternative: making news the right way.

The newsletter is one option for the hundreds of kids who are sentenced to community service each year for summary offenses like smoking, fare evasion, disorderly conduct and criminal mischief on SEPTA. Those who successfully complete community service and meet other requirements have the offense withdrawn or criminal record expunged.

The newsletter was started in 2007 by the Northwest Community Coalition for Youth and involves students who want to volunteer or receive community service credits. SEPTA’s deputy chief David Scott, who is part of the coalition, decided the newsletter might also benefit some of the minor, non-violent offenders with whom he comes into contact.

“The reason why we decided to utilize community court kids is because they’re at risk,” said Scott. “The important thing is that these kids build their self esteem [and] they have a sense of accomplishment.”

About a dozen juveniles have been through the program. Most importantly, police said, those who have worked on the newsletter or completed other community service have not been re-arrested.

“Out of all the kids we’ve dealt with, we’ve not seen one [come back],” said Officer Keith Glover of SEPTA, “so that’s a positive sign they’ve actually taken what was given to them, gotten something out of it and know they don’t need to come through the criminal justice system again at all.”

Not for everyone

Any juvenile with a summary offense that carries more than a $400 fine is not eligible for the newsletter project, Scott said. The program is also not available to repeat offenders.