Juvenile arrests in Baltimore have decreased by 46 percent since 2012, but more youth are being charged with violent crime, a newly released report found.
The Abell Foundation research also criticized the lack of publicly available information about juvenile crimes and the lack of transparency about judicial decisions.
Researchers began collecting data about juvenile crime after a number of incidents, including robberies around the Inner Harbor and South Baltimore last fall, prompted local leaders and some residents to decry “out of control” youth crime in the city. The authors said the public debate about juvenile crime has been reignited this spring after four teens were charged in the death of Baltimore County police officer Amy Caprio in May. The four defendants accused in the officer’s death were from Baltimore city.
In April, The Baltimore Sun found that juvenile arrests were down but juvenile services data showed that those youths were being charged with more offenses and more serious offenses.
The report released Thursday used stats from Baltimore Police, the state Department of Juvenile Services and the Maryland Judiciary Case Search database.
“Based on these data, we concluded that overall violent crime is up and case closures are down, and that even though juvenile arrests for violent crime are up, overall juvenile arrests are down significantly,” the report’s authors said.
Between fiscal years 2012 and 2017, overall juvenile arrests decreased by 46 percent, from 4,402 to 2,217, according to juvenile services data.
But at the same time, more juveniles were charged with serious crimes, the report found.
“Since 2012, the number of juveniles arrested and charged with crimes of violence increased both in number and as a percentage of the total number of juvenile arrests,” the report said.
Last fiscal year, 683 complaints were made against juveniles for violent crimes, up from 550 in 2012.
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The report notes that overall crime has increased between 2012 and 2017, and that the police closure rate has declined.
In the past five years, there were 1,069 cases where juveniles were charged as adults, 43 percent which were eventually transferred back to juvenile court.
The report said the “outcomes for juveniles charged with violent crimes appear to be driven by individual judges in a process that is not very transparent.”
Four city circuit judges did not transfer any cases back to juvenile court between 2012 and 2017, while one judge transferred all 87 cases back to juvenile court, the report said.
Of the 124 cases that were transferred to juvenile court, 61 resulted in the youth being committed to juvenile services, while the rest were either given probation or the charges were dismissed.
The report’s authors lamented that there is little publicly available data related to juvenile violent crime. The report says juvenile services is the only agency that publishes “aggregate data about the juvenile justice system,” and noted that the state’s attorney’s office and juvenile court do not collect or publish data on juvenile cases.
“To better understand the level of juvenile violence in Baltimore, it would be helpful to have access to aggregate sentencing and recidivism data for youth charged with violent crimes and anonymous case-level data for cases transferred to the juvenile court. These types of data would not only shed more light on the nature of the problem, but also aid in the construction of potential solutions,” the authors said.