Ten juveniles have been charged as adults in the Howard County court system this year, more than three times the number charged during 1990, prosecutors say.
Never before have so many juveniles been charged as adults in a single year, county records show, and the number continues to grow. Assistant State's Attorney Bobbie Fine, who handles juvenile cases, said authorities may soon may bring adult charges against five more youths.
"The crimes are more serious and the kids are more brazen," Fine said.
Three juveniles were charged as adults in Howard County last year -- close to what had been considered a normal caseload, she said.
Statewide, the number of juveniles charged as adults has not risen nearly as fast. There were 539 in 1988, 656 in 1989 and 666 in 1990, said Jacqueline Lampell, a spokesman for the state Department of Juvenile Services.
The most serious crime for which a juvenile was charged in Howard County this year occurred April 26, when a 24-year-old woman was raped while jogging in Centennial Park. Antonio Lee Perry, 16, of Takoma Park, is charged with second-degree rape, a second-degree sex offense and assault with intent to rape in that incident.
A Circuit Court judge ordered Perry waived from juvenile services to the adult system Sept. 6. He was indicted two weeks later by a county grand jury.
He was on a field trip with other youths in the custody of Juvenile Services at the Thomas O'Farrell Youth Center in Marriottsville when the rape occurred.
Instead of being sent back to a youth correctional facility like O'Farrell, he now awaits trial while being held at the county's detention center on $1 million bond. If convicted, he could be lTC sentenced to state prison for a maximum of 20 years each for second-degree rape and second-degree sex offense violations, and 15 years for assault with intent to rape.
Next week, another juvenile faces a hearing to waive him into the adult system for charges of robbery, theft and battery against a Columbia resident.
Fine said she is awaiting four more police reports on cases where young suspects could be tried as adults. Those cases involve drug possession and distribution; burglary; burglary and destruction of property; and auto theft.
Fine said her caseload has increased from 290 juveniles in 1988, to 320 in 1989, to 560 last year. This year, her load has been lighter than in 1990, but the crimes being committed by youths are more serious and the number of repeat offenders has increased, she said.
"There's nothing Juvenile Services can do for them," she said. "I tell the judge that we have to waive them because they make a mockery of the system."
Fine said cited two other characteristics shared by the young offenders lately -- many come from outside the county and many are younger than in previous years.
"Before, we would waive them if they were close to being adults -- 17 years and 11 months old or something like that. Now, we're going 16 1/2 and younger," she said. She added that teens age 14 or older automatically are tried as adults if charged in crimes for which they could receive death sentences or life in prison. Those age 16 and older face adult charges if a handgun is used in a felony, she said.
Fine gets the most serious juvenile cases. A county program keeps first-time offenders out of the criminal justice system for committing such crimes as destruction of property, drug distribution, theft or unauthorized use of their parents' autos.
"For some kids, being arrested is enough of a deterrent," said Dawn Stonesifer, youth services coordinator for the county's police department. "They're scared to death when they come in."
Stonesifer said those youths are counseled, evaluated for drug problems or referred to social service agencies. She said records indicate that 97 percent of them do not encounter further problems with police. She said the number of cases has not changed significantly, but agreed that there are more severe incidents.
"The kids I see, overall, are good kids who use poor judgment," she said.