Howard County police and prosecutors say juvenile crime is soaring, with arrests this year already surpassing the total for 1993.
And authorities don't expect the numbers to get any better.
"It's very scary to me," said Bobbie Fine, an assistant state's attorney in the juvenile division of Howard County Circuit Court. "They're getting younger and more serious with the crimes."
Police said juveniles, mainly 13- to 17-year-olds, accounted for 1,137 of the 5,952 arrests in 1993. This year, police have made at least 1,179 juvenile arrests.
Most disturbing, police and juvenile authorities say, is the increasing number of serious crimes committed by juveniles.
Last month, for instance, police charged 15-year-old Raheem Ameen Jones of the 5300 block of Brook Way in Columbia as an adult with attempted murder in the Aug. 16 shooting of a 19-year-old neighbor.
According to county police records, the number of youths arrested for Part I crimes -- murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and auto theft -- increased 21 percent from 1992 to 1993. The 560 arrests accounted for about one-third of all Part I arrests in Howard last year.
The increase in Howard is consistent with a five-year juvenile arrest trend throughout the state, according to statistics compiled by the Maryland State Police. Last year, state police recorded 42,767 juvenile arrests in Maryland.
In Baltimore County, police had arrested 4,411 juveniles by the end of last month, compared with 5,260 juvenile arrests in all of 1993.
In Howard, police say a significant number of crimes are commited by youths from outside the county.
Howard County police said 222 of the juveniles arrested last year were not county residents.
Police say many juvenile arrests are for car theft. The county set a record with 987 auto thefts last year.
Prosecutors and police attribute the overall increase in arrests to a variety of factors, including population growth, broken families and the relatively easy access youths have to guns, alcohol and drugs.
By all accounts, there is at least one obvious reason for more juvenile arrests: more police officers.
Thirty-nine officers joined the department in December, said Police Chief James Robey. The current number of sworn officers is 282.