Juvenile crime increases

September 30, 1994|By Ed Heard | Ed Heard,Sun Staff Writer

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.

The two argued after the victim kicked Mr. Jones' dog. Two men shot the victim.

Mr. Jones was indicted by a Howard County grand jury Sept. 1 and is free on a $5,000 bond. Police are seeking the second suspect, Ronald Bassett, 17, of Columbia, who has been charged as an adult for attempted murder.

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.

"Juvenile crime tends to be much more home-grown than adult crimes because they have less opportunity to move around," said Sgt. Steve Sergeant Doarnberger, a spokesman for the Baltimore County department.

Police say a large portion of juvenile arrests are for car theft. The county set a record with 987 auto thefts last year. Many cars are stolen and driven to Baltimore or Baltimore County, police say.

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 in Howard: more police officers.

Thirty-nine new officers joined the department last December, providing more patrol and investigative hours, said Police Chief James Robey. The current number of sworn officers is 282.

In addition, Chief Robey said, the department has supplemented crime-fighting efforts with education, such as its D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program in county schools.

"There're pro-active programs to provide alternatives to crimes for young people, but not enough," said Chief Robey. "We are doing an awful lot considering the resources we have."

Authorities may have to take a holistic approach in finding solutions, Chief Robey said.

"Until the social issues that foster crime change, nothing's going to change," he said.

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