During a three-and-a-half-year period recently studied by the Long Beach, Ca., Press-Telegram, more than 10,000 children were arrested or cited for crimes ranging from truancy and loitering to assault and armed robbery. More than a quarter of them were repeat offenders. Especially troubling, the number of annual juvenile arrests has remained relatively steady over the last 10 years, despite a downward trend nationwide. In Long Beach and other urban centers, childhood problems often fall on the shoulders of police and schools, neither of which is fully equipped to deal with them.
Concluding a seriers on juvenile crime, the Press-Telegram offers an eight-point program to fight the problem. Number-one suggestion: earlier intervention. “I think the best place to intervene, really, is late elementary school and middle school,” said one expert. “After middle school, they’re really playing catch-up.” Among other recommendations: focus on grades, help parents be parents, create a network of mentoring programs, and continue working on problem cases long after court supervision has ended. The newspaper cites a trend of using holistic approaches to healing families in crisis. The most popular involves a national initiative known as “Wraparound,” described as a “do-whatever-it-takes approach to keeping kids at home, stabilized and avoiding out-of-home placement” by giving families various kinds of support – financial, emotional, psychiatric, and otherwise.