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Juvenile crime down in Arizona, nationwide

Adults in Arizona may see teenagers as troublemakers. But, it may come as a surprise that juvenile crime in Arizona and nationwide is on the downturn. Nationwide, juvenile arrests reached its highest point in 1996. However, the number of juvenile arrests nationwide plummeted 68 percent by 2015. Specifically, between 2007 and 2014, per information compiled by the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections, there was a 45 percent decline in the number of juveniles sent to the courts in the state, and a 49 percent decline in the number of juveniles ultimately sent to corrections.

This dramatic downturn in juvenile offenders in Arizona has led some juvenile detention facilities to shut their doors. The juvenile detention center in Apache County closed in 2015, when as many as six weeks would pass without any juveniles in it. The juvenile detention center cost $800,000 annually to operate, even though it was only housing approximately 1.7 juveniles at any given time. In addition, this June saw the closure of two other juvenile detention centers in both Gila County and Navajo County.

The reason for the downturn in juvenile crime, though, is a bit of a mystery. Some professionals cite the rise in social media as a reason why fewer crimes, such as assault, are occurring. And other professionals claim that more young people these days are thinking of their future goals as adults, and don't want to engage in activities that compromise these goals. A director of the state's Juvenile Justice Services Division reports that there are more programs aimed at preventing juveniles from engaging in criminal activity. There have also been more initiatives to identify juveniles who are struggling with behavior issues, trauma or substance abuse early on. Therefore, placement in a juvenile detention facility is seen more often these days as a last resort.

Arizona also has a Detention Center Regionalization Task Force to address the issue of closing facilities. One option they are considering is the development of regional facilities. The task force will also look at way to repurpose vacant facilities.

In the end, juvenile detention facilities still play an important role when it comes to juvenile crimes. Juveniles accused of crimes have their whole futures ahead of them, and should not have these futures destroyed by being incarcerated as adults. A juvenile defense attorney can assist young people facing criminal allegations by developing a solid defense argument in their client's favor.

Source: Arizona Capitol Times, "Juvenile crime plummets - experts at a loss to explain," Katie Campbell, July 7, 2017

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