Crime Toll On Young Extensive

Truancy, Abuse As Likely For Victims As For Attackers

August 30, 2009|By Kelly Brewington | Kelly Brewington,kelly.brewington@baltsun.com

Young victims and perpetrators of violent crime in Baltimore are more likely to skip school, be abused or neglected or have a history of contact with the juvenile criminal system, a city Health Department report found.

The study, released Friday and based on data from 2002 to 2007, sheds light on the intractable problem of youth violence in Baltimore and is part of the agency's effort to devise ways to intervene before young people get into trouble.

The statistics show that children who were crime victims had roughly the same struggles with truancy and rates of abuse as youths who committed violence, making the two groups practically indistinguishable, said Jacquelyn Duval-Harvey, a Health Department deputy commissioner.

"People may have thought that before, but this gives significant evidence in terms of their histories and profiles," she said.

About 73 percent of both victims and perpetrators had contact with the juvenile system, at an average age of 13. That correlation was about 33 percent for youths who had not been involved in violence.

The need for intervention is critical, Duval-Harvey said. From 2002 to 2006, the city's juvenile homicide rate was nearly five times that of Maryland's as a whole, and more than eight times the national figure, according to the report.

Evidence of truancy and abuse and neglect as early as the first grade should be the first sign that a child needs intervention to avoid a violent future, Duval-Harvey said.

"If a child has a sexual abuse report, call the school and find out if they are absent a lot," Duval-Harvey said. "If you wait, by 13 you'll see expulsion. If you wait longer, they will be arrested. ... What this is saying is, we need to intervene earlier."

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