There are 225,000 arrests of juvenile offenders each year in California. The reasons for these arrests are almost as numerous as the arrest themselves. Economic and social conditions, and values, lifestyles, and especially demographics can have a significant impact on juvenile crime.
The juvenile arrest rate peaked in 1974 at 9,300 per 100,000, decreased through 1987, and increased since then by six percent to the current date.
The juvenile arrest rate for violent crime has exceeded that for adults since 1980, (640 per 100,000 for juveniles versus 610 per 100,000 for adults). Juvenile violent arrest rates increased in part because of the growth of the juvenile population. Research indicates that violent arrest rates might be increasing because of gang activity and the availability of firearms.
The juveniles homicide arrest rate began to exceed those for adults in 1989 (20 per 100,000 for juveniles versus 13.3 per 100,000 for adults). With California’s juvenile population projected to grow over 22 percent in the next decade, it doesn’t appear that this trend in juvenile violent crime or arrest will reverse course unless a plan to intercede is implemented.
The majority of youth arrested have an exceptional need for treatment services:
• 41 percent need mental health services
• 58 percent need substance abuse treatment services
• 22 percent need sexual behavior treatment services
• 28 percent enrolled in school are receiving special education services
The issues of concern to the parents and guardians of these young perpetrators of violent crime: Why it is happening in the first place, and how do we either prevent it or intervene before it occurs?
Is it a problem for government to solve, or does the solution lie with all of us?
Juvenile justice authorities believe a plan to mitigate such problems must include more job opportunities for young people and they should receive acceptance and support elsewhere.
Look for the Signs
If you suspect that a member of your family or a neighbor is involved with criminal or gang activity, it is important to acknowledge it and report it. The signs often include a change in dress style, secret behavior and increase in money and possessions. A problem only increases when you bury it and pretend it does not exist. It is even more difficult to expose when the parent is the direct recipient of a criminal enterprise.
You have to try to make sure that young people in your family occupy their time with activities that are wholesome and productive, such as organized sports, hobbies and after-school activities. The biggest supporters that can provide intervention and prevention are organizations such as churches and non-government organizations. Because they are mainly aimed at the youth, gang prevention becomes a cause at the top of their list. Believing that young people have a better chance of being helped if they are given positive activities, they take a more direct role in working with young people.
What Is Obvious
There are no simple solutions to reducing arrests. What is obvious is that we can’t spend our way out of the problem through incarceration by locking up every juvenile offender.
The only real solution is deterrence through education reform, vocational training and employment opportunity, as well as mental health care, substance abuse treatment and rehabilitation services for juvenile offenders when it becomes necessary to detain and incarcerate them.
Teachers are being asked to reform their compensation through performance incentives. Why not require the same expectations from the criminal justice system for young criminal offenders?