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Rise in Crime Blamed on Kids

May 17, 2007


Massachusetts needs tougher punishment for violent youth. At least that's the opinion of the Justice Department, which says youth and gangs are to blame for the nationwide rise in violence, up for the second year in a row. It's calling on Congress to pass laws allowing stronger prosecution of young offenders, and is pledging around $50 million to combat gangs and guns. Mike Vance, field operations manager with Action for Boston Community Development, says he's seen the rise in youth violence. But, he adds that while fighting gangs and taking away the guns will help, kids still need other options.

"I'm not sure that you can ever stop the violence totally, but I think it would make a big difference if kids had structured activity, or if they had a job."

He believes the lack of structure in kids' lives is why crime rates spike in the summer. His program used to find summer jobs for as many as 8,000 kids, but because of a cut in funding, that number is now 1,000.

David Ruffin from the Children's Defense Fund says it would be more effective to focus on the circumstances that send kids into what his organization calls the "Cradle to Prison Pipeline."

"People grow up in poor neighborhoods, broken families, without access to health care. All these add up to the sinister architectures of the 'cradle - prison pipeline.'"

Kevin Clay/Chris Thomas, Public News Service - MA