Youth arrests up 31 percent since 1995 Population growth among reasons, officials suggest

Mostly thefts, assaults

This year, increase in juvenile cases slowed dramatically

December 14, 1997|By Melinda Rice | Melinda Rice,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The number of juveniles arrested in Anne Arundel County is up 31 percent since 1995, with most of that increase last year, and state and county officials don't know why.

"To some degree, it has to do with the fact that Anne Arundel County is a county that's growing," said Jack A. Nadol, deputy secretary of the state Department of Juvenile Justice.

County State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee agreed, saying, "The major cause of the fluctuation is the number of juveniles in your population."

The county's population has increased 8.57 percent since 1990, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates.

County police arrested 4,268 juveniles from Jan. 1 to Nov. 30, 1995, county records show. During the same period last year, police arrested 5,525 juveniles, an increase of 29.45 percent.

"We don't have any hard answers for why," said police spokeswoman Debbie Tall, who compiles reports on arrests of juveniles.

The number of arrests for the same period this year continued to climb, but more slowly. Between Jan. 1 and Nov. 30, county police arrested 5,592 juveniles, 31 percent more than in the same period of 1995 but only 1.2 percent more than in the same period last year.

Thefts, assaults and property crimes such as vandalism account for most of the offenses.

Authorities are as baffled by the slower increase in arrests this year as they are with the overall increase.

"In effect, the increase is decreasing, but we don't know why," Nadol said.

Weathersbee speculated that the public's heightened awareness of how to prevent the crimes usually committed by juveniles has combined with an aggressive police presence in neighborhoods to keep this year's increase low.

"The Police Department is good, it's active, it works," he said.

Nadol said more vigorous early intervention programs are reducing the number of repeat offenders.

For instance, as part of the Spotlight program, juveniles on probation are introduced to a probation officer, a police officer and a community representative when they return home.

"We have six eyes instead of two eyes watching him and ready to assist him," Nadol said. Under the old system, the youth answered only to the probation officer.

The Impact program, another new Anne Arundel effort, imitates the work-release and house-arrest programs of the adult court system.

Youthful offenders participate in a 30- to 90-day program while living at home and going to school. They wear electronic monitoring devices and report to the 3-p.m.-to-10-p.m. program after school. The faster they respond to behavior-modification techniques, the sooner they finish the program. Nadol said 58 days is the average.

"The recidivism rate is going down," said Nadol. "Kids are getting treated more intensely."

Pub Date: 12/14/97

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