Officials: Spike in juvenile crime expected

Published 5:00 pm Saturday, June 7, 2014

With school out and temperatures rising, law enforcement officials are expecting an increase in crimes committed by juveniles.

Selma Chief of Police William Riley said the warm weather increases the chance that minors, who may not be involved in summer activities, will commit minor crimes.

“With the weather breaking, all cities are going to have issues like this,” Riley said. “It’s definitely not something that’s isolated. More or less what we see is a spike in minor nuisance calls.”

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He said the calls consist of trespassing, car break-ins and thefts. Other times, police get calls when juveniles try to buy alcohol or cigarettes.

“These aren’t bad kids they just make bad decisions,” Riley said.

Police don’t always arrest juveniles, if possible.

“It’s about balance,” he said. “You have to understand what it was like as a child.”

District Attorney Michael Jackson attributed the increase in juvenile crime to a lack of activities children participate in.

“The main reason is that schools let out and juveniles are wandering around, trying to figure out what to do and their attention turns to illegal activities,” Jackson said. “Even kids who normally don’t get in trouble might throw rocks to break out windows.”

Children who are charged with a crime are either classified as child in need of supervision (CHIN) or delinquent. Jackson said CHIN cases often result in probation and usually involve children not obeying parents. Delinquent cases are more serious, such as breaking and entering.

Delinquent cases can result in juvenile jail or boot camp.

Jackson recommended school programs and summer activities to prevent criminal behavior from developing.

Riley said Selma residents should be aware of their surroundings and report any criminal activity.

Regardless of a short-term summer increase, Dallas County District Court’s overall juvenile caseload decreased since 2007.

During the 2007 fiscal year — running from October 2006 to September 2007 — 383 juveniles were on probation. The most recent statistics — fiscal year 2013 — show the court’s caseload dropping to 128 juveniles on probation per year. The decrease represents a 65-percent drop.

In a previous interview with the Times-Journal, District Judge Bob Armstrong said the most obvious manifestation is a decrease in court times.

“Juvenile court used to take all day,” District Judge Bob Armstrong said in February. “Now we are able to have it every other week and we only have eight cases. Looking at the statistics, it’s almost nothing compared to what it was.”