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Reports of Youth Crime Wave Debunked by Latest Research

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Wednesday, June 29, 2022   

New research by The Sentencing Project shows a drop in youth crime over the past 20 years, which debunks a so-called "false narrative" of a youth violence movement sweeping the country.

Sarah Reyes, policy analyst at the Texas Center for Justice and Equity, said there is little data since the pandemic started, but she suspects the drop in crime, at least in Texas, was an anomaly because kids were isolated due to COVID-19.

"Kids were at home, and weren't getting things like dress-coded or for fighting," Reyes observed. "School is the biggest place where kids are accused of committing a crime."

Reyes pointed out other juveniles end up incarcerated because Texas has some of the harshest marijuana laws in the country. Possession of any amount of THC is a felony, whether it's a vape cartridge, edible or marijuana brownie.

The Sentencing Project reported the overall number of offenses committed by youth categorized by the Federal Bureau of Investigation as violent, including murder, rape and robbery, declined in 2020.

At the same time, an 18-year-old male was responsible for the school shooting in Uvalde last month, killing 19 students and two teachers and wounding 17 others.

Richard Mendel, senior research fellow for The Sentencing Project and the report's author, said too often such events lead to a broad call for stricter punishments and harsher treatment. He contended methods to crack down have consistently proven to be ineffective at preventing crime, and are instead likely to cause crime to increase.

"This is not a moment to be panicking about youth crime," Mendel asserted. "Especially if that panic is going to lead us to embrace solutions that we know the evidence shows does not work."

Reyes noted the extreme anti-transgender legislation in Texas has discouraged and frightened many teens, and she believes Texas policymakers need to lead with more empathy.

"It's going to be stuff like that, that really harms everybody; families, kids," Reyes explained. "We saw this Uvalde shooting and the response to that. Maybe something's going to come out of it, but it might not be what is needed, just given Texas' political landscape."


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