Amid rising crime rates, a new Monroe County program plans to focus on youth offenses.
The Juvenile Enhanced Diversion Stabilization program, announced last week, will combine resources of the Monroe County Department of Public Safety and the county’s probation officers for post-arrest, pre-trial procedures. Specifically, the program looks to reduce times of no activity in juvenile cases in order to safeguard the youth and community by disrupting interactions with their peers.
“Carjackings and car thefts, smash and grabs, home and business robberies, and illegal gun violence have been happening at an alarming rate in our community,” says County Executive Adam Bello. “One thing is clear, and I have been saying it for months: there has to be accountability and consequences for these unlawful and harmful actions. There has to be a disruption in criminal activity committed by our young residents.”
The new program will also come with further review and assessment of juvenile arrests by Monroe County Probation. Subsequent to the assessment, a decision will be made to either house the offender in detention or to issue an expedited appearance ticket.
“This is a step towards holding young offenders responsible, interrupting their cycle of criminal activity, and getting them the help they need,” says Chief Deputy Michael Fowler.
In addition, the Probation Department will assist with transportation and supervision between detention and court for these cases. Law enforcement says this will take that responsibility off police officers and allow them to get back on the streets.
“This is an unprecedented step and it makes Monroe County among the first in New York State to enlist our Probation Officers to help fight juvenile crime and bring greater accountability to juvenile and youth offenders. There’s not a simple fix and our plan is more than just detention. For this to work, we are creating a workaround in the state legal system so that teens are getting programs and services to remove them from the criminal environment sooner than the state legal system requires,” Bello says.
In New York, juvenile crime is defined as those committed by individuals 18 years old or younger. Prior to the Raise the Age legislation in 2018, 16-and 17-year-olds were also prosecuted as adults. Supporters of the change said the previous system resulted in a lack of services and age-appropriate programming, making it more difficult for those young offenders to reintegrate into society.
That move is still meeting resistance from some lawmakers. In March, State Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay, R,C-Pulaski, proposed legislation reforming Raise the Age saying it created a system where young people commit crimes with no consequence.
Fowler agrees with that sentiment.
“Since the onset of Raise the Age, juvenile crime has seemingly gone unchecked. The lack of consequence has emboldened these children to become involved in trending crimes, putting themselves and our community in danger,” he says.
Barclay’s proposal would change how cases would transfer to family courts and widen the definition of violent felonies.
A study released by John Jay College of Criminal Justice in February paints a different picture of youth violence in New York City, however. According to its research, violent crimes by those in the “17 and younger” and “18 to 24” age categories fell or remained relatively consistent following the Raise the Age law.
“As researchers, we rarely have exactly the right data to prove a theory is true, but we can sometimes use available data to show a theory is probably false,” said Jeffrey Butts, director of the John Jay College Research & Evaluation Center, at the time. “This study shows there is not enough evidence to prove that Raise the Age legislation led to a rise in juvenile violent crime.”
National numbers from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention show a continual drop in juvenile arrest rates over the last 40 years. Since reaching its highest point in 1996, the arrest rate has dropped by 85 percent in 2020. This trend remains true across all offenses including motor vehicle thefts, which have plateaued over the past decade.
Petitioned, or formally handled, juvenile court cases follow a similar pattern in New York. In Monroe County, rates of petitioned juvenile court cases fell by 79 percent from 1997 to 2019.
However, these data do not have the most recent values for juvenile offenses and may not be taking post-COVID court slowdowns or crime spikes into account. For example, incidents of motor vehicle thefts have exploded recently in the area.
From 2011 to 2022, there were about 50 to 60 incidents on a monthly basis, accounting for approximately 16 percent to 18 percent of all property crime.
Since the start of 2023, the monthly average for motor vehicle thefts has been over 300 incidents and accounted for at least a third of all property crime. This phenomenon has been explained by officials as trends disseminating through social media platforms to young people.
“More and more, these crimes are being committed by juveniles and teenagers as part of social media challenges or pranks from their friends. It has to stop,” says Bello.
Earlier this year, Rochester Mayor Malik Evans announced plans to sue automakers Kia and Hyundai for creating faulty security systems.
Jacob Schermerhorn is a Rochester Beacon contributing writer. The Beacon welcomes comments and letters from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name. Submissions to the Letters page should be sent to [email protected].