Are some shocking attacks by juveniles in Philadelphia part of a rising trend?, asks the Philadelphia Inquirer. Police data show a rise in juvenile arrests in connection with violent crimes over the last four years, from 1,795 in 2002 to 1,956 last year, a 9 percent increase. In January, juvenile arrests in violent incidents spiked by nearly 40 percent – from 126 last year to 176. “That’s a big jump,” said Jeffrey Roth of the Jerry Lee Center of Criminology at the University of Pennsylvania. He said police targeting young offenders may account for some of the increase, but that the larger number seems to indicate more juvenile crime was being committed.
Nationally, juvenile crime peaked in the early to mid-1990s and has been declining. A U.S. Justice Department report due out tomorrow says the arrest rate for juvenile violent crime in 2003 was below the levels of the 1980s. “The data suggests an ebb and flow in this,” said Lawrence W. Sherman, director of the Jerry Lee Center. There’s always the perception that the current crop of youth is behaving worse than earlier generations. “The people who come out of Graterford [Prison] say the younger people are wilder, but they always say that,” Sherman said. Roth said that dropout rates may be a “good leading indicator, but not necessarily a cause” of juvenile crime. Ralph Taylor, a Temple University criminologist, says preliminary research shows a rise in serious juvenile delinquency in specific districts after an increase in adult arrests. “As the arrest rates go higher and higher, you are taking out adults who are performing important supervisory functions,” Taylor said.