Washington, D.C.’s juvenile arrest rate for violent crimes has risen this year after a steady decline since the mid-1990s. So says a new report being issued as the City Council readies several bills to make it easier to try juveniles as adults, the Washington Post says.
The report, which questions the efficacy of the proposals, notes a general increase in juvenile arrests. Still, juvenile arrests on murder and drug offenses have not increased since last year. Despite the recent increase, the juvenile arrest rate for violent crime has dropped by more than half since 1995, says the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan research organization.
Jeffrey Butts of the institute’s Program on Youth Justice says the increase in juvenile arrests was expected after years of decline. “It looks like we’ve hit the bottom and things are starting to go up again, but it’s not time to panic,” he said. The report acknowledges that public concern has increased because of crimes like a gang-related shooting that injured a bus driver and the fatal shooting of a 16-year-old student leaving a high school dance.
Among pending bills, Mayor Anthony Williams wants to make it easier to transfer 15-year-old defendants to adult court. Council member Phil Mendelson would allow children with three juvenile convictions to be transferred to adult court.
The Urban Institute report says trying more juveniles as adults “will have very little effect on overall public safety and may even increase the odds that youth will commit serious crime in the future.” It cited a Florida study result that teens tried in adult court had higher recidivism than those handled in the juvenile system.