Youth Crime Declining in Massachusetts, Says New Report

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A new Data Points report from the organization Citizens for Juvenile Justice indicates that juvenile arrests in Massachusetts are on the decline, with the number of young people being arrested in 2011 dropping by more than 20 percent compared to 2010 findings.

The report also finds violent and property offenses committed by juveniles in the state to be decreasing, with 2009 data indicating an 8 percent decrease and 4 percent decrease, respectively, from juvenile violent crime and property crime rates in 2008. Compared to 1998 data, researchers say that property crimes and violent crimes committed by juveniles have decreased dramatically, with the rates in Massachusetts for violent crime plummeting by 36 percent and property crime dropping by 45 percent over the 11-year study window.

Researchers have also observed a decline in Massachusetts juvenile court charges. For the FY 2012, the total number of “youthful offender” and delinquency proceedings brought before state juvenile courts dropped 13 percent from FY 2011 data, representing nearly a 44 percent decline in total proceedings since 2008. In 2011, 274 Massachusetts juveniles received “youthful offender” indictments, representing a 15 percent decrease from 2010 and a reduction of almost 30 percent compared to 2007 data.

The report indicates that young people of color are being disproportionately represented in Massachusetts’ juvenile courts, with Hispanic and African-American juveniles representing 53 percent of total filed charges in 2011. Researchers also say that African-Americans, representing 38 percent of charges, and Hispanics, representing 25 percent of charges, are similarly disproportionately represented in the state’s 2011 “youthful offender” cases.

The authors of the report say the data strongly suggests that many of the young people that come into contact with the state’s juvenile justice system have “inadequately addressed educational, physical and behavioral health needs,” noting that in the total 2011 “risk/need” probation population, almost three-quarters of juveniles were determined to require “counseling needs,” while almost 85 percent were identified as having “educational needs.”

The study also describes Department of Youth Services (DYS) data as “disturbing,” finding that last year, almost two-fifths of young people held in pre-trial detention had open Department of Children and Families (DCF) cases, with more than 60 percent of Hispanic girls in Massachusetts having open DCF cases while being detained in 2011.

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