In Central Florida, law enforcement officers have been calling attention to the apparent rise in juvenile crime. With limited resources and a growing population of young people involved in criminal activity, they are warning that arrests alone cannot solve the problem. According to recent statistics from the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, there has been an increase of 15% in first-time arrests for minors since 2017.
An Overview of Juvenile Justice in FL
The state's Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) is responsible for administering the juvenile justice system in Florida. DJJ operates 21 juvenile detention centers that provide custody, supervision, education, and mental health/substance abuse services to youth offenders in the state.
Florida's juvenile justice system is divided into several key structures, including juvenile courts, detention centers, probation departments, and community-based programs. The courts in Florida have jurisdiction over criminal felonies and misdemeanor cases involving defendants under the age of 19.
The Department of Juvenile Justice's responsibilities include intake and assessment of juvenile offenders, overseeing their detention and rehabilitation, and providing various programs and services for the youth's rehabilitation. The department's community-based programs include counseling, mentoring, and education aimed at keeping youth out of the juvenile justice system altogether.
The DJJ's commitment to rehabilitation and recidivism reduction is evident in its diversion programs that provide services to the youth and their families to improve their condition and reduce the chance of reoffending. The department's Aftercare Services Division also offers services to adolescents who have completed their sentences to help them reenter the community.
Statistics and Recent Changes
In 2020, the state had a total of 75,972 juvenile arrests, with the majority involving misdemeanors. The population of youth offenders in Florida was 21% Black, 33% Latinx, and 42% White, according to an independent study. Juveniles of color made up nearly 67% of arrests.
Florida passed a law in 2021 aimed at overhauling the state's juvenile justice system. This law focuses on improving the state's juvenile detention facilities, increasing diversion programs, and addressing the treatment of youth with mental health and substance abuse disorders.
Prevention and Overenforcement
Law enforcement officials point out that teens may also be influenced by peers who are engaging in criminal activities, or they may lack access to resources such as mentors and employment opportunities. The Orange County Sheriff's Office has implemented preventative measures to combat juvenile crime, such as developing community partnerships and providing education programs for at-risk youths.
Still, some criminologists say that law enforcement alone will not be enough to address the root causes of juvenile delinquency. Research suggests that additional strategies such as mentoring, job training, and recreational activities can help keep young people away from dangerous or illegal behaviors.
While arrests remain a necessary tool for addressing violent or persistent offenders, it is clear that lawmakers need to consider a more comprehensive approach if they want to make meaningful progress when it comes to juvenile crime. The community, law enforcement officers, and parents need to work together, to ensure that the next generation has access to the resources and guidance they need to become productive members of society.
If you or a loved one has been accused of a crime, contact our experienced legal team at the Law Office of Armando J. Hernandez, P.A.