When are kids just being kids, acting out or doing dumb stuff, and when do they become criminals? It is an important question, with important consequences, and one which La Crosse County is about to tackle head on. The county has developed a new way to deal with cases of young people who commit minor offenses. The effort is designed to keep juveniles out of the criminal justice system. That is important, because in addition to jail crowding and the cost of incarceration, putting young people in the criminal justice system can increase the likelihood of further criminal activity, and reduce the likelihood of student’s getting on the right path in life. This effort is being organized by a number of local agencies, including police, county courts and our schools. The partnership has a lot of potential to help save tax dollars, and keep our community safe. Because not every kid who swipes something that doesn’t belong to them, or gets in fights on the playground deserves to be locked up with hardened criminals. This effort seeks to make services available to these kids, and recognizes that the development of adolescents often includes behaviors such as mood swings, risk taking, and challenging authority. This could pay big dividends. It may not work, but if it doesn’t it won’t be for lack of trying to reach kids when they may be at a crossroads in their life.