Colorado is beginning to focus crime-reduction programs on the fastest-growing criminal segment at both the state and federal levels: teenage girls. While overall violent crime by girls has gone down in the state, the number of assaults has gone up about 5 percent a year since 2001, said Lisa Pasko, an assistant professor of sociology and criminology at the University of Denver. She recently completed a two-year study of violent middle-school and high-school girls in Colorado’s juvenile-justice system.
The study set out to find out how best to reduce the number of girls in the system and prevent recidivism. The report, scheduled to be presented to the state’s Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Task Force on Dec. 1, shows a spike in the number of girls in the system. Between 2003 and 2006, the commitment rate for girls ages 12 to 17 increased 52 percent, while the detention rate increased 28 percent. Commitment is long-term incarceration, similar to prison, while detention is for shorter terms, like a county jail.