Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Fewer Youth Crimes Are Violent More Getting Charged with Lesser Offenses

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Fewer Youth Crimes Are Violent More Getting Charged with Lesser Offenses

Article excerpt

ATLANTA -- Non-violent offenders are a growing presence in Georgia's juvenile detention centers as serious crimes involving young people decrease, according to a new report ordered by the Department of Juvenile Justice.

Reflecting a nationwide trend, juvenile arrests for violent crimes in Georgia fell by 27 percent between 1995 and 1998, while arrests for serious property crimes decreased by 24 percent, Atlanta-based Applied Research Services Inc. reported in a study completed last month.

At the same time, arrests of Georgia young people for crimes such as drug possession, disorderly conduct and so-called "status" crimes such as loitering were on the rise, soaring by 200 percent between 1990 and 1998, according to the report.

Many of those non-violent offenders are ending up in Georgia's regional youth detention centers, which house young offenders accused of crimes while their cases are pending, or in youth development campuses, which are for those who have been sentenced to state custody.

For example, while the percentage of detention center admissions for youths charged with violent or serious property crimes fell between 1996 and last year, the percentage of offenders charged with less serious non-violent crimes increased.

The increase in non-violent offenders is driven in part by drug task forces organized by local law enforcement agencies and funded by federal grants, said Greg Maxey, the department's deputy commissioner.

"We're locking up a lot more less-serious offenders," Maxey told members of the Georgia Board of Juvenile Justice yesterday. "The war on drugs has dramatically widened the net."

Maxey said the higher concentration of non-violent offenders in custody is adding more girls to the system, which puts a financial strain on the department because it has to have some separate facilities and gender-specific programs for them. …

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