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September 12, 2011

Police and prosecutors lamenting juve crime wave in Florida

Any and everyone down in Florida (whether for a football game or a GOP debate tonight) apparently needs to be on the watch for teenage career criminals, at least according to this recent South Florida Sun-Sentinel report headlined "Hard-core juveniles at heart of property crime wave."  (Hat tip: The Crime Report).   Here is the start of the report:

A new type of career criminal is emerging — neighborhood teens. They're breaking into cars, burglarizing homes and robbing people on the street.

Police and prosecutors across South Florida say they are seeing hard-core youth committing burglaries and robberies over and over again and that they are largely helpless to stop what's happening.  Some have been arrested dozens of times in the span of their short life, often while they are on probation or awaiting trial for earlier charges.

In just Fort Lauderdale, a Police Department crime analysis shows that a small group of teens — just 50 youths; some as young as 13 — were charged with almost 700 crimes last year.  They accounted for more than half of all the juvenile arrests in the city. Police brass believe the youths are partly to blame for a recent increase in property crime.

Fort Lauderdale is not alone.  Prosecutors in Palm Beach County were recently surprised when a youth who faced more than a dozen burglary and property crime charges was sentenced to about six months in a state residential treatment facility.

Then, there was the case last week of a 15-year-old from Pompano Beach.  He was charged with robbing two people, punching a behavioral specialist at school and throwing rocks at cars and houses.  Despite a rap sheet that included previous cases of assault and theft, the teen was sentenced to probation and 80 hours of community service.

"We aren't talking about kids arrested for the first time and whether they can be rehabilitated," Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Frank Adderley said.  "These are prolific offenders, and there is no incentive for them to stop.  They have no fear and know the justice system is a revolving door."

The concern comes even though Florida has long had a get-tough reputation on juvenile offenders.  The state has come under intense criticism for incarcerating high numbers of youths and doling out more life sentences to juveniles for non-murder cases than all other states combined.

Still, prosecutors in Broward and Palm Beach counties say teens who commit property crime usually are sentenced to probation.  At most, they are sent to a residential treatment facility for about six months.  Juveniles also cannot be held for more than 21 days while awaiting trial regardless of the charges or their history and then have limited state supervision.

Dare one even suggest that this new Floridian juve crime problem is, perhaps just in some very indirect way, somehow a consequence of the Supreme Court's ruling in Graham prohibiting LWOP for even repeat juve nonhomicide offenses?  I would be very skepitcal of anyone making such a causal claim, but it is hard not to think of the Graham Eighth Amendment ruling in light of this press report.

September 12, 2011 at 03:27 PM | Permalink


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'perhaps just in some very indirect way, somehow a consequence of the Supreme Court's ruling in Graham prohibiting LWOP for even repeat juve nonhomicide offenses?'

More likely lack of jobs, breakdown of the family structure and like most of the rest of the country an increasingly poor economy in Florida.

Posted by: james | Sep 12, 2011 4:58:03 PM

The notion that the economy and unemployment rates are major drivers of crime rates has run aground on the rocks of hard data recently, and just about everyone is abandoning that ship. See here and here.

Breakdown of the family structure probably is a factor, though.

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Sep 12, 2011 5:25:16 PM

The crime wave in Florida cites juvenile crime only your references do not define by age group, which if they were broken down by age group could prove to be quite statistically illuminating. Unemployment for teenagers to age 24 has recently been cited at levels of ~18.5%.

Posted by: james | Sep 12, 2011 6:03:54 PM

Please, show this story to Prof. Drucker, author of the book, a Plague of Prisons, highlighted and promoted in a posting below this one.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Sep 12, 2011 9:42:42 PM

that is also what happenes when you have a whimmy disarmed populatin. up here in North Florida we take florida's "stand your ground" law serious and most of these idiots would simply be shot while being placed under citizens arrest!

Posted by: rodsmith | Sep 13, 2011 2:57:16 AM

"usually are sentenced to probation. At most, they are sent to a residential treatment facility for about six months…cannot be held for more than 21 days… regardless of the charges or their history."

<<"Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.">>

Spare the rod…

Posted by: adamakis | Sep 13, 2011 9:38:13 AM

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