Barwako Hussein, left, of Lewiston holds her cousin Mohamad Musa, also of Lewiston, as they listen to speakers at Thursday night’s Juvenile Justice Panel at the Lewiston Public Library.

LEWISTON — The way Rilwan Osman sees it, the more entrenched the immigrant population becomes in Lewiston, the greater their responsibility to make it a better place.

“Lewiston is our home,” said Osman, executive director of Maine Immigration and Refugee Services. “We’re not going anywhere, so let’s make our city and state a better place for everyone.”

It would become somewhat of a theme for the 6th Annual Juvenile Justice Panel, an event that has become so popular, the turnout this year could barely fit inside the Lewiston Public Library’s spacious Callahan Hall.

Well over 100 people turned out to meet area police and legal experts, including Lewiston’s Chief Brian O’Malley and District Court Judge Rick Lawrence.

This year’s event featured half an hour of dance by members of the MEIRS girls program, which whipped an already energetic crowd into a near frenzy.

But tucked in with all the booming music and exotic dance moves were less entertaining facts and figures from the event panel.

Last year, Lewiston Community Resource Officer Joe Philippon told them, the number of juvenile arrests in the city dropped by 30 percent.

“We’re really proud of that decrease,” he told the group.

Police do, however, have lingering concerns. So far in 2017, according to Philippon, juvenile arrests are up again. It’s not a big increase, Philippon said, but it’s one that police would like to see reversed.

“We need your help,” he told the young people who dominated the audience. “If you’re out with one of your friends and you think he is about to make a bad choice, be a good friend and try to stop him from doing whatever he’s about to do.”

It wasn’t all about worrisome crime and boring statistics, though. Philippon also highlighted the successes of programs developed to help keep kids out of trouble, such as the Community Partnership for Protecting Children.

Whatever happens, Philippon assured the kids, the community has their backs.

“Each one of you is a vital asset to this community,” he said. “You are our future.”

Then the dancers came out and things got a little crazy.

Also presenting Thursday night was the group Maine Inside Out, which uses workshops and collaborative theater to generate dialog about issues related to incarceration.

As part of the presentation, the group aired their video “Change is Coming,” which features talks and performances by former inmates at the Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland.

The Juvenile Justice presentation, launched in 2012, was held at the B Street Community Center before the program outgrew that facility.

Judging by the turnout Thursday night, it might outgrow Callahan Hall, as well.

Samira Aden, 13, right, and her sister Ambiya, 9, perform a dance routine they made up for Thursday night’s Juvenile Justice Panel meeting at the Lewiston Public Library where there was standing room only.

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