Juvenile Crime on the Rise

October 04, 1994

An increase in the number of new police recruits in Howard County last year had an unexpected dividend: It sent the number of juvenile arrests in the county soaring.

The number of recorded crimes by youths this year, 1,179, has already surpassed the total for all of 1993, 1,137.

The increased efforts by county police, and the resulting arrests, are helping to undo the myths about Howard being immune to the ills of urban life. While crimes committed by adults are harrowing enough, youthful crimes rip hard at the fabric of society. The tragedy to families and the youths themselves is immense.

Howard Police Chief James Robey is right when he says that the juvenile crime trend won't abate until society begins addressing the issues that foster the problem: broken homes, easy access to guns, alcohol and drugs, as well as attitudes about the acceptability of violence and a lack of respect for others.

Programs such as D.A.R.E., the Drug Awareness Resistance Education program currently in county schools, are good. But they can never replace the kinds of things that should be taught in the home. By the time government can step in to legislate individual responsibility, the crime too often has been committed.

Bobbie Fine, an assistant state's attorney in the county's juvenile division of Circuit Court, says she is frightened by the climbing rate of juvenile offenses because the accused appear to be getting younger, their crimes more serious. In response, law enforcement appears to be getting tougher with such offenders, particularly in high-profile cases.

Fifteen-year-old Raheem Ameen Jones of Columbia was recently charged as an adult for the attempted murder of a 19-year-old neighbor. Police said the man was shot in the back after he allegedly kicked the youth's dog. In another Columbia case, a roving gang calling themselves the Low Riders has been getting harsh sentences for their part in a rash of thefts involving four-wheel-drive vehicles.

While the prosecution of youths as adults can't be taken lightly, the current situation demands that a strong signal be sent. And always, enforcement must be balanced with prevention. For every life that is saved, the community will be enriched.

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