Kids and crime

July 25, 1991

It speaks volumes about the extent to which violence has permeated our society that there is now such a phenomenon as "school crime" -- assaults, rapes, robberies and vandalism that occur in the classrooms and hallways where young people are supposed to be learning the values and behavior that will carry them into adulthood.

The newest statistics on school crime in Baltimore city show that crime has skyrocketed overall -- 2,193 felonies and misdemeanors occurred during the 1990-91 academic year compared with 1,547 the year before. That the increase is due primarily to a rise in less serious offenses, like common assaults and minor threats, rather than offenses involving guns and drugs is scant consolation. The growth in the numbers of students who are stealing, the increase in weapons possession, the rise in common assaults, disorderly conduct and sexual offenses is an ominous sign that society might well face a new wave of crime in the coming years.

The new data should provide the impetus for setting up preventive education programs in schools and communities designed to deter students now involved in "minor" criminal incidents from getting their post-secondary education at the City Jail. Granted, such an effort would require money and time. But the involvement of kids in crime is a clear example of how, when it comes to social problems, society either pays now or it pays later.

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