Brevard Experiences Sharp Decline In Juvenile Arrests
By Space Coast Daily // February 27, 2013
32 Percent Decline Reported Overall In Florida
(VIDEO: FLDJJ )
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – The Annie E. Casey Foundation has released a new report which shows a 32 percent drop in the number of Florida students being sent to residential juvenile justice programs between 1997 and 2010 and a sharp reduction here on the Space Coast.
“Our efforts are focused on ensuring Florida has a juvenile justice system that we can all be proud of, and the Annie E. Casey Foundation report illustrates we are on the right track,” Florida Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Wansley Walters said.
“In addition to the significant decrease in youth incarceration rates documented in this snapshot, Florida has seen a drastic reduction in overall juvenile arrests, school-based delinquency and the number of youth being transferred to the adult prison system.”
Overall juvenile arrest rates have been declining steadily since the mid 1990’s in Florida.
In the last five years alone, Florida has experienced a 34 percent decline in arrests involving juveniles.
School-based delinquency has also declined dramatically; over the last eight years, there has been a 50 percent decrease.
In Brevard County, the number of student placed in a residential facility declined 58 percent in the last five years from 315 to 131.
The number of students referred to Department of Juvenile Justice residential facilities in Brevard declined 66 percent, from 220 to 75 in that same period.
The number of youth offenders in Florida transferred to adult court declined 14 percent last year, and has gone down 44 percent since 2007, according to the “KIDS COUNT Reducing Incarceration in the United States” report.
“We’re pleased to see that the confinement and referral rates for Florida’s youth have improved. It’s a tremendous achievement that the people of Florida should be proud of. However, it is important to remember there are still more than 58,000 youth who touch the juvenile justice system each year,” said Florida said Florida KIDS COUNT Director Susan Weitzel.
She said this is a time to reflect on what Florida is doing well and look for areas in which to improve.
“If there is one thing I want the public to take away today it’s that delinquent behavior isn’t just about the crime; there are often underlying issues and the crime serves to put adults on alert to seek out the heart of the difficulties,” Weitzel said.
To build on its progress, Florida’s Department of Juvenile Justice has proposed comprehensive juvenile justice reforms in its “Roadmap to System Excellence.”
The plan, which is still in draft form, will lead the department in managing its population and resources more efficiently to provide the right services to the right youth at the right time to best meet the needs of students and their families.
Among the strategic measures in the Roadmap, the department seeks to shift residential resources to community-based interventions and realign existing resources to increase the availability of transitional services, such as services for vocational programming, employment, education, family support, transitional housing, and transportation.
The report noted racial disparities in youth confinement reflect nationally. This is known as disproportionate minority contact and it’s a challenge that states across the nation, including Florida, are facing and it’s a critical component of the Roadmap.
To that end, the Department has initiated numerous efforts, including using family engagement to educate parents and youth about their rights to build a home environment that gives youth the greatest chance at success; promoting increased use of civil citation; implementing training curriculum for officials who work with minority youth; developing partnerships to help underserved minorities find employment opportunities; and collaborating with schools to develop teacher/youth summits to foster a greater understanding of diversity issues that contribute to high DMC referral rates.
“This is not only a victory for Florida families – these improvements are the result of hard work on the part of Florida’s parents, educators, law enforcement officials, judiciaries, community leaders, juvenile justice stakeholders and the youth themselves, “Walters said. “I want to emphasize that this is just the beginning. We are constantly developing new partnerships and looking for ways to identify at-risk before they get in trouble, as well as helping those who are already in the system avoid getting any deeper. Today’s findings are just a small glimpse of what Floridians should expect to see moving forward.”