Ralph Whelan

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This episode is from the WNYC archives. It may contain language which is no longer politically or socially appropriate.

Editors of college newspapers question a prominent personality in the news. Marving Sleeper introduces the guest Ralph Whelan, Executive Director of New York City Youth Board, and the college journalists. Paulette Barrett of the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, Jim Farrell of the Fordham Ram, Stewart Kampelmacher of CCNY Ticker, and Reardon Roate of Columbia College.

Farrell: Are teenage crimes being over-publicized? We have had much too much publicity. Public should be made aware, but because these three recent incidents occured so close together, media has caused hysteria.

Roate: Has major teenage crime been so concentrated in the past year at any one time? No, in fact teenage crime has decreased in 1956 over 1955.

Barrett: Would you be in favor of preventing the newspapers from getting the details of the story of juvenile deliquency outbreaks? No, not in favor of withholding any information. I am in favor of proper handling of this information. Should be put before the public without them becoming hysterical.

Kampelmacher: How can we thwart the growth of teenage crime? Should more police be hired? Yes, more police are desireable. But police can't do it alone. The community and citizens need to take responsibility. Young people have to take responsibility for their actions too. Young people that get in trouble usually don't belong to organizational programs such as young people's groups, church groups, and community centers. Do you think the homes are the main reason for juvenile deliquency? The family is the core problem when talking about causation. Proper recreational facilities and a good religious life are other factors in preventing juvenile deliquency.

Barrett: What have been the results of working with two feuding gangs in Washington Heights? Not a feud between fighting gangs. That neighborhood is undergoing rapid social change and that usually causes tensions. Are there plans to set up such groups in Wash. Hts? Yes, there is.

What is the major difference between a fighting gang and a club? Gangs have anti-social acts as their main objective, fighting or rumbles are a fighting gang's purpose. Social clubs occasionally get into trouble with another group but not it's their objective.

Sleeper: Do you ever consider breaking up the fighting gang so it is no longer a unit? No, that would be contrary to our philosophy. Natural phenomenon for young people to gather together. Rather than repress these gangs, workers work with them to convert anti-social behavior into socially acceptable behavior.

Roate: How effective has your street club programs been in decreasing teenage crime? Haven't had one major gang war between the 60 gangs we have been working with. Estimate approximately 80 and 100 gangs out there.

Farrell: Do you think moral education (apart from theological/religious education)should be included in schools and do you think a lack of that training is a cause of deliquency? Find it difficult to answert his question. No, that training belongs to the religious groups to which they belong.

Roate: Do you think that these three major crimes in just one week were publicized to force police to put more on the beat? No, it was an excellent move to deploy the 600 rookies to the streets. Has a decided effect on teenagers.

Do you think the addition of the rookies was a psychological move? No.

Barrett: Would you advocate a curfew for teenagers? No, I am opposed to curfew in principle. It's the responsibility of the family and parents. Difficult to enforce a curfew - would lead to rebellion. Would possibly consider a local curfew - only on trouble areas? No, can't impose legislation on only one group of people.

We need to remember that 97% of the children are good and come from good families. This is a total community problem. All social agencies - public, private, and religious groups should become active.

Can the Youth Board pinpoint which areas and which groups of teenagers need certain direction? We have information almost block by block and what areas need help the most.

Farrell: Referring to suggestion in Daily News "Voice of the People" feature, any good policeman knows when trouble is brewing. Youth Board and police keep each other informed. Cooperation is the solution; not moving in on people before they commit an act.

Farrell: Only 25% of the police force is on the streets. Do you think the allocation of the other 75% of the force would help? I don't think this is an emergency situation. Things are working well the way they are allocated now. Do you think the recent incidents are coincidence? Yes.

Barrett: Are we to assume the situation in New York City is not a unique one compared to other large cities? No.

How does it compare to other large cities? Proportionately, New York has a little less than other cities.

Roate: Is there any study that children in a religious school is less likely to be deliquent than children in public schools? I know of no particular study. I do know that we have fewer of children trained in religious schools at the Youth Board than of public schools.

Kampelmacher: What treatment do you recommend for these teenagers after they are caught? Ther present treatment is good. We have to work with these kids where they are, let them know they do have adult friends, help them plan constructive activities, get good jobs, and become contributing citizens.

Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection

WNYC archives id: 50166
Municipal archives id: LT2518