Juvenile crime is on the rise in Maryland

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Amid a rise in vehicle thefts and violent crime, a report released Tuesday shows that juvenile crime in Maryland is increasing but still below pre-pandemic levels.

Maryland Department of Youth Services published a research report on Tuesday which, he says, puts data on youth crime "in context."

It comes as Maryland prosecutors are pushing for changes to laws they say make it harder to fight juvenile crime. The legislators to hold a House Judiciary Committee briefing on the issue Wednesday .

Addressing complaints from prosecutors that they have been hamstrung by changes to juvenile law, including one that limits the ability of police and prosecutors to question juveniles, Department of Juvenile Services Secretary Vincent Schiraldi He said: “It's not that we haven't been able to arrest, charge or detain children, because the number of complaints we receive has increased, not decreased, since the law went into effect” in October 2022.

Is youth crime increasing?

According to the report, juvenile crime reports have increased over the past two years: from 7,100 in fiscal year 2021 to 12,363 in fiscal year 2023.

At the same time, Schiraldi said there has been a long-term downward trend in juvenile delinquency.

Since 2013, the report states, complaints from minors have decreased by 50% and “are still below pre-pandemic levels.”

"We have to remember that any information we obtain from someone must always meet constitutional requirements," McCarthy said. But the recent change in juvenile interrogations means there is less access to timely information about crimes involving juveniles.

"The consequence is a less safe community," he said.

Schiraldi said there should be concern about crimes committed by youth, but said the percentage of youth arrested for crimes overall represents a fraction of all criminal arrests in the state. Data from the report shows that adults are arrested for 92.9% of crimes overall, while 7.1% of those arrested are minors.

Armed violence

Young people, including those who end up in the juvenile system, are often victims of gun violence, Schiraldi said.

Over the past decade, the number of teenagers injured by gunshots in Maryland has quadrupled, from 41 in 2013 to 171 in 2022.

Looking at gun-related homicides, Schiraldi said data shows 29 young people were killed in 2013, compared to 47 in 2022.

When asked if the perpetrators of that gun violence are minors, Schiraldi said: “You don't always know. We know a lot more about who gets shot than who shoots” because of low clearance rates.

The report also indicated that young people are more likely to be victims than perpetrators of violent crimes.

Service provision

Since taking over leadership of the agency, Schiraldi said the vacancy rate in his office has fallen, from 18% when he arrived in January to 7% today. He said that means there are now more staff members working directly with children each day.

“And I will tell you, that makes a big difference in the types of services we can provide to youth and in staff morale,” Schiraldi said.

Among the things the department is doing, Schiraldi said, is reducing “free time” among juveniles in custody and adding programs that include therapy to address behavioral problems. One element of that treatment focuses on helping detained youth regulate their emotions.

“You can actually help people learn how not to overreact to volatile situations where they might be fighting” or other stressful situations. And Schiraldi said that "the research is quite solid and will reduce recidivism in general and violent recidivism in particular."

Schiraldi, who was appointed by Gov. Wes Moore, echoed the governor's mantra that everyone needs to work together to combat youth crime, especially violent crime.

"My part in this is to focus on the kids who are most likely to use guns or be victims of firearms to make sure we're putting them on the right path, and that's exactly what I intend to do," he said.

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