What the data reveals about juvenile crime trends in Maryland

A timely juvenile crime report released by the Department of Juvenile Services on Tuesday found that crimes committed by teens over the past decade continue to decline, including in most categories of violent juvenile crimes.

The report’s release came one day before a House of Delegates Judiciary Committee hearing, the first in a series of meetings in which lawmakers are expected to weigh these numbers and recent juvenile reforms in the face of a wave of gun violence against teens and a sharp rise in gun violence. In teenagers car theft.

Much of the data in the DJS report is not new, nor is it reflected in the stark racial disparities heaped on Black youth in the penal system. But some high-profile crimes involving youth have led to questions about the momentum of the juvenile system and prompted the state’s juvenile services agency and its leader, Vincent Schiraldi, to launch a data campaign ahead of the meetings.

The agency’s pointed data summary “debunks the myth that criminal justice reforms of the past two years have made the public less safe,” said David Jaros, a law professor at the University of Baltimore and faculty director of the Center for Criminal Justice Reform.

Whether trends move up or down, they reflect national patterns, he said, and recent juvenile justice reforms in Maryland cannot be blamed for the new highs in any one category.

“Furthermore, there should be less blame because there has not been a massive spike in juvenile crime, despite what one might think — in light of what we see in the media,” Jaros said.

One area of ​​concern for Project Jaros was the increase in gun violence against teens and the increase in homicides. “But even there, it’s clear that what’s happening in Maryland is being reflected across the country,” he added.

Here are some of the questions the data answers.

What are the trends in violent juvenile crime?

The overall share of crimes committed by juveniles, 7%, is much lower than that committed by adults and roughly equal to the percentage of the U.S. population between the ages of 12 and 17, according to federal data. This also applies to the number of people arrested on murder charges, 93% of whom are adults.

For the most part, state data mirrors national trends, showing a steady decline in youth arrests for violent crimes over the past nearly two decades.

Violent crimes committed by juveniles in Maryland decreased between 2020 and 2023 overall, but some types of violent crimes rose significantly. Firearms offenses rose by approximately 220%, and car thefts, which were controlled by force, rose by 85%.

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Arrests of teens on murder or attempted murder charges have increased in Baltimore City over the past five years, while they have fluctuated in other parts of the state, according to DJS.

The data showed a rise in non-fatal shootings and homicides of teens across the state and those in DJS care, two distinct groups. Teens of color account for nine out of 10 fatal and nonfatal shooting victims, according to state data.

The number of nonfatal shootings of youth under 18 between 2018 and 2022 rose 175%, according to Maryland State Police; 171 Maryland youth were shot in 2022. The number of youth homicide victims is up 88% since 2018.

Why is teenage gun ownership so common?

Since January, dozens of teens have been shot or shot someone while under DJS’s care. In 2022, 25 young people were victims of nonfatal shootings, and five more were shot while on probation, according to the data.

Teens say they carry guns to protect themselves and to feel safe around other armed teens. However, simply carrying a gun can increase the likelihood of becoming a victim of gun violence, according to a summary of research compiled by the National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform.

What about young people who are accused of being adults?

Across the country and throughout Maryland, reforms have moved away from charging youth as adults and incarcerating youth in adult prisons. Many studies have revealed negative health, social and economic outcomes.

But a study, released by the nonprofit Human Rights for Children, ranked Maryland fourth in the nation for the rate of inmates convicted as children and disproportionately charging black youth as adults.

Current Maryland law requires that teens accused of committing or attempting to commit certain violent crimes, such as murder, first-degree assault, first-degree rape, armed robbery, firearm crimes, and others, be charged as adults.

Black teens are charged as adults far more often than their white counterparts, online state data has revealed. In the last half of 2022, of the 396 juveniles charged as adults, about 81%, or 320, were Black youth.

However, 87% of youth who are charged as adults have their cases transferred to the juvenile system, removed or disposed of over time, according to a 2010 analysis by the Vera Institute.

How can officials address deviant behavior in children under the age of 13?

In 2022, Maryland set the minimum age for criminally charging children at 13 in most cases, banned incarceration for minor offenses and set time limits on how long a youth can remain on probation.

However, prosecutors, law enforcement officials, and teachers can still link vulnerable children involved in delinquent behavior to state-sponsored services by providing a “child in need of supervision” referral. The agency’s efforts to educate stakeholders have yielded notable results.

Between June 2022 and March 2023, the number of referrals for “children in need of supervision” almost quadrupled compared to the same previous time period one year earlier. But the number of re-arrests of under-13s fell to a third of what it was the previous year.

How did car thefts affect the numbers?

Across the country, officials are facing an uptick in teens stealing cars due to a viral social media challenge to Jack Kias and Hyundais using nothing more than a USB cable and a screwdriver.

This trend has emerged here in Maryland, and DJS has blamed the impact of the “Kia Challenge” for a 70% increase in non-violent juvenile referrals. The General Directorate of Police saw the number of car theft crimes more than double – with 1,193 young people referred to the department related to these crimes in 2023, compared to 545 in 2022.

How does the cost of youth incarceration compare to services?

Maryland spends $414,929 on incarceration per child per year, more than $1,100 per day. That’s according to a 2020 study by the Justice Policy Institute. The Center for Criminal Justice Research ranked Maryland as the fifth highest spender in the country when it comes to annual juvenile incarceration costs. The average cost per child in the states was about $214,000, or $588 per day.

Over the past 20 years, as youth incarceration rates have steadily declined, youth crime has also declined, according to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. If incarcerating youth reduces youth crime, the numbers don’t show it.

Maryland’s last 10 years of data mirror national figures. As the state has adopted a rehabilitative treatment approach to juvenile services, the system has detained fewer teens each year over the past decade, instead diverting teens to community-based support services. Since then, the number of criminal complaints against young people has decreased by 61%.

The same Justice Policy Institute report found a dramatic difference between the national average daily cost of incarcerating a teenager, $588, and the lowest cost of community-based wraparound services, about $75 a day.


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