- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 10, 2022

Some of the most violent crimes in America are carried out by the youngest members of society, and those who deal with youth offenders say the trend won’t reverse anytime soon.

The startling surge of lawlessness began during the pandemic. In cities large and small that bear the brunt of the crime wave, leaders are finding no easy solutions.

In Washington last month, Commanders running back Brian Robinson Jr. was shot in an attempted carjacking perpetrated by an armed teenager.

Prosecutors in Philadelphia this summer filed murder charges against two 14-year-olds, a boy and a girl, after the beating death of a 73-year-old man with a traffic cone.

A 17-year-old in San Antonio was arrested on a murder charge. The teen was accused of luring a 15-year-old boy from his home in what police say was revenge for a drug robbery.

The list goes on.

SEE ALSO: Crime wave puts high-profile Democrats on defense for work on parole boards

“Youth crime is absolutely spiking,” said Marc T. Little, executive director of Cure America Action, a Christian-based conservative advocacy group focused on urban issues. “All we have to do is look at the news, and most of what we read about the hotbeds of violence in cities is crimes committed by youth.”

Analysts say the rise in juvenile violent crime is caused by several factors, including absentee fathers, shuttered schools during the pandemic, and soft-on-crime district attorneys who either refuse to press charges or seek lenient sentences.

That has created a perfect storm for communities struggling to contain the violence.

Analysts point to lenient approaches to juvenile crime from left-wing politicians and prosecutors.

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell angered police and others when she appeared in juvenile court last month to support a 14-year-old carjacker. She sat with the perpetrator’s family as he was sentenced to probation for three first-degree robberies committed when he was 13.

The head of the Fraternal Order of Police in New Orleans said the move was a “disappointment” and “unfortunate.”

SEE ALSO: Biden rips GOP support for police, calls for increased funding for cops

“I pick no sides,” the mayor later said. She explained that the teen was in her Pathways program, which is intended to help at-risk youths stay on the right path.

In Los Angeles, where brazen smash-and-grab robberies and home invasions have increased crime rates, District Attorney George Gascon has sharply restricted prosecutions of juveniles as adults.

Those actions send messages to teens that they will pay no consequences for their crimes, Mr. Little said, and juveniles go back to urban communities to carry out further mayhem.

“People like George Gascon and others are not making sure teens are rehabilitated, but just looking to lower the numbers of youth in prison and sending them back into the communities,” he said.

Although no one has tracked national data on crimes committed by juveniles, statistics from areas throughout the country point to a widespread rise in violent crime by youths.

Data from the police department in Montgomery County, Maryland, which borders the District of Columbia, shows that the number of homicide victims and suspects younger than 21 has tripled since last year.

So far this year, six homicide victims and nine suspects were younger than 21, up from two victims and three suspects in 2021.

Through the first six months of 2022, prosecutors in Indianapolis charged six people younger than 21 with murder, up from two throughout all of 2020 and five by the end of 2021.

Police in the District arrested 63 juveniles for carjackings so far this year. That’s on pace to shatter last year’s record of 100 carjacking arrests. For all of 2019, only 25 teens were arrested for carjacking.

In Prince George’s County, Maryland, which also borders the District, police have arrested 430 juveniles so far this year, more than double the number from this time last year.

New Orleans police arrested 157 juveniles from June through August, including 24 arrested more than once during that period.

The most recently available data on violent youth crime is from 2020. That data, compiled by The Sentencing Project, which advocates lower incarceration rates, showed that the number of homicides committed by those ages 10-19 increased by 1% in 2020 compared with 2019. However, the total number of juvenile arrests dropped by 8% during the same period.

Marc Levin, chief policy counsel for the Council on Criminal Justice, said it’s hard to know whether juvenile crime is surging or whether youths are committing higher-profile offenses. The number of violent crimes solved by police has decreased since 2020, making it difficult to determine the perpetrators.

In several cases, youths and adults committed the crimes together, adding another variable, Mr. Levin said.

Some municipalities have taken steps to address the violence.

Officials in Prince George’s County on Friday began enforcing a curfew for teens. They must be off the streets between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. on Sundays through Thursdays unless accompanied by an adult. The curfew begins at 12 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

Officials in Philadelphia, the District and Winston-Salem, North Carolina, also have quietly resumed enforcement of long-standing juvenile curfews in areas where young people tend to congregate.

At least 400 towns, cities and counties across the country have curfews, but data from the National Youth Rights Association shows enforcement is rare.

The move was popular in the 1990s when politicians sought to be tough on crime while America was awash in violence. Curfews fell out of favor in the mid-2000s, when social justice activists said they trampled on the rights of Black youths.

Studies show that curfews do little to curb crime in the communities where they are enforced. A 2016 study by the Campbell Collaboration, a nonprofit that reviews public policies, examined 7,000 studies on juvenile curfews and concluded that they were ineffective.

The Campbell Collaboration concluded that crime rates increased only slightly during curfew hours and that curfews had no impact on reducing crime.

Data released this year by the Justice Department’s office of juvenile justice and delinquency prevention found that violence committed by juveniles ages 7 through 17 is more frequent during school days from 1-7 p.m.

“These kids are brazen and out in the light of day doing what they do,” said Kevin McGary, president of the conservative activist group Every Black Life Matters. “If all these crimes were committed at night, this might have some effect, but I don’t see it as a real solution.”

Mr. McGary said the nation must address the crisis of fatherlessness in Black communities.

A Justice Department study last year found that 72% of adolescents serving sentences for murder are from fatherless households, and 60% of rapists grew up without a father.

Meanwhile, more than 72% of Black children are born to unmarried mothers. From 1930 to 1950, more than 90% of children in Black households were born to married couples.

“Fatherlessness is the common denominator for crime in the urban communities,” Mr. McGary said. “Fathers are not there as a voice of reason, pillar of rationality, and a barrier to protect children. Single moms are working, and children are left to their own devices and we are reaping the consequences of that.” 

• Jeff Mordock can be reached at jmordock@washingtontimes.com.

Copyright © 2023 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide

Sponsored Stories