A 12-year old boy was arrested in Boston recently for allegedly running a marijuana operation from someone else’s apartment, reports the Boston Globe. The number of youths 16 and younger arrested in drug cases jumped 42 percent from 2004 to 2005. During the same period, the number of juveniles collared on weapons violations, including guns and knives, slightly more than doubled. Overall, arrests of juveniles for violent crimes during that time swelled 14 percent. Youth mentor Leo Williams says that teenagers and 12-year-olds are becoming criminal role models for children 9 and 10 as the culture of violence continues to calcify in the community. Williams calls this generation “superbabies,” weaned on technological advances and traumatic setbacks.
Raised in families divided by years of drugs and despair, they’re often left to fend for themselves. Too young to obtain working papers, they’re savvy enough to find employment in the underground markets: slinging drugs, or stealing cars or jewelry. From 2004 to 2005, the number of juveniles arrested for vehicle theft increased 30 percent; those nabbed in robberies spiked 54 percent. Boston since the early 2000s has lost $8.6 million in federal funding that had been targeted to prevent such young people from getting into trouble, With couples working overtime to make ends meet, even kids from solid families are being babysat by violent video games, violent TV shows, violent music — and violent streets, says Chris Sumner of the Boston TenPoint Coalition, a faith-based group working with at-risk children. “The culture of violence is the new after-school program,” says Sumner.