Advertisement

Questions on kid crime

September 29, 1998

For the first time in nine years, the number of Maryland juveniles arrested for violent crime has fallen, with sharp drops in the number arrested for murder, car theft and rape. Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening's administration is claiming credit, but before we agree, we have some questions.

The first is whether it's possible juvenile arrests are declining because the number of juveniles has temporarily declined. Anyone who's every had to deal with school redistricting issues knows the number of youths in the state is not constant. Population increases come in waves, as they did when the children on the so-called Baby Boom generation began having kids of their own. Those children are young adults now, but will spur their own boomlet when they begin forming families.

We also note that the drop in juvenile arrests coincides with a 12 percent increase in adult arrests, which some juvenile advocates blame on the Glendening administration's initiatives to make it easier to charge some juveniles as adults. That's a strategy we agree with it's used to deal with dangerous predators who've gotten an early start on violent crime. But if this is just a matter of shifting arrests from one category to another, it really shouldn't be advertised as a drop.

Advertisement

The strongest argument in favor of the administration's argument is that fact that while violent crime arrests declined, overall juvenile arrests fell by just 2 percent because of increases in apprehensions for vandalism and curfew and liquor law violations. This would suggest that police are cracking down harder on minor crimes, deterring juveniles from graduating into major-crime categories.

Glendening and GOP opponent Ellen Sauerbrey are using these statistics in a political battle that will end little more than a month from now. Whoever prevails, the search for what's really behind the numbers is something that should continue beyond Election Day.

The Herald-Mail Articles
|
|
|