Prosecutors focus on juveniles


Juvenile crime in Anne Arundel County has gotten so bad that the state's attorney has formed a team of three prosecutors to focus on young offenders in an effort to get them off the street.

Frank R. Weathersbee, the state's attorney, announced the formation of the Juvenile Trial Team yesterday. "By creating a trial team, we are responding to the increased numbers of petitions and [juvenile] arrests," he said.

Assistant State's Attorney Thomas J. Pryal will head the team. Joining him will be Gene Whissel and Larry Caporale. Together, they have more than 35 years of prosecuting experience, Mr. Weathersbee said.

Previously, juvenile cases were dispersed among all assistant prosecutors. But the recent surge in juvenile crime led Mr. Weathersbee to adopt a new tactic.

"There was a time when the offenses juveniles committed were minor scuffs in school or with the law," Mr. Weathersbee said. "Those days are gone. One of the most significant rises in juvenile crime has been in the escalation of drug offenses and violent crime. It is both frustrating and frightening."

He said his office might file 1,400 juvenile cases this year, up from the 1,000 to 1,100 cases of recent years.

Mr. Weathersbee formed the team two months after police reported the sharpest rise in juvenile crime in years and after the County Council killed County Executive John G. Gary's attempt to reopen the Careers Center, a school for wayward youths.

School officials reported 244 assaults, 111 weapons violations and 126 drug and alcohol incidents in the past school year.

Police statistics show juvenile drug arrests jumping 63 percent from 1993 to 1994. Arrests for car theft for the same period leaped from 22 to 79. The Police Department's annual crime report for 1994 and for the first three months of this year showed an overall increase in juvenile crime of 17 percent. During the same period, adult crime rose 4 percent.

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