Across Sacramento County, Ca., more teenage boys are standing before a judge, charged as adults in some of the most vicious homicides of the year. The Sacramento Bee says the trend has left police, community groups, and families searching for elusive answers. During the first six months of this year, 15 children — including two 14-year-old boys — have been arrested in homicide cases, surpassing the number of juveniles arrested in homicides annually since 1996. “It’s been pretty evident that younger kids are involved in more violent crimes,” said Police Capt. Daniel Hahn. “Crime is getting younger — the victims and the suspects. We see it on a daily basis.”
All of the juveniles are being prosecuted as adults as required by Proposition 21, the “get tough” on crime initiative approved by voters in 2000. The rise in homicide arrests among Sacramento youths bucks trends seen elsewhere. The Rand Corp. documented a 46 percent drop in juvenile arrests for violent offenses such as murder, from 1994 to 2003 in California. Russell Miller Jr., a defense attorney representing two boys charged in separate murder cases, cited is a general disconnect among youths, a stunning inability to understand the consequences of their actions. “I’m not going to say kids treat this like video games, but it’s like there can’t be any natural awareness of what they’re doing,” he said. “(Shoot) a gun in a video game, push restart; shoot a gun in the real world, and someone dies.” Daniel Okada, assistant professor of criminal justice at California State University, Sacramento, said the spate of arrests could be an anomaly. Or, it could signal the start of a cycle of youth violence he predicted would begin in 2008, based on population trends and other patterns.