Monroe County to address increase in juvenile offenses

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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]

3 thoughts on “Monroe County to address increase in juvenile offenses

  1. I have a message for Adam Bello, Chief Michael Fowler and all the rest of those looking for an answer to the juvenile crime wave. It’s EDUCATION!! The drop out rates, the fact that kids are not prepared for higher education or certificate programs. Kids drop out at alarming rates and or are poorly educated. Quit looking up at the sky for your answers when they are at ground level. Check the education level of the offenders. What do you see? Kids that have little education and have no skills of any kind. Thus…..they end up on the streets looking to address their boredom. This aint rocket science folks! This is NOT something that needs extensive study by individuals with PHD’s. This is very basic. If you don’t educate the kids will be educated on the streets. The urban school system will not (possibly is incapable) of teaching the way kids learn. They bore them to quitting. The number one answer to the question, “why did you drop out?” is ….”what do I need this sh– for anyway!” Sooo, show them why they need it. Boring them with academics aint gonna cut it. And the RCSB is not doing their job. We need to show kids professions and careers. We need to let them discover their innate skills and their God given gifts. We don’t do that, we refuse to do that. That my friends is THEE problem in urban Rochester….EDUCATIONAL failure. The system fails the kids. Period.
    I dare the RCSB to do their job. I dare you to educate kids. I dare you to give kids a chance in life.

    • You’re talking to people in both education and political standing that are convinced that the problems these kids face are all due to “racism, oppression, racist policy, White supremacy, White nationalism, and inherent “White privilege.” What has actually been in place for the better part of the last 30+ years within the RCSD has been anything BUT educating these youths. Couple that with a city council and school board that see’s everything through a “racially-tinted” lens and with Black students as “victims” of an “oppressor system” against them. What you ultimately end up with is kids who can’t read, write, do simple math, etc.

      The Black kids in this district have the lowest test scores in NYS. That alone speaks to the dysfunction of both the system itself, the methodologies employed, and the total lack of parental involvement on behalf of their children. And it starts most emphatically, at the elementary school level. From there, the failures are repeated over and over with each successive grade. The further fact that the RCSD lies repeatedly about the “improvements” in test scores, and then triumphantly announces “success” in a student body that graduates 12th grade at a greatly-inflated 65% graduation rate, are just some of the more dire falsehoods that this district and its leaders perpetuate on an unsuspecting public. The overwhelming fact is that whatever has been instituted as “remedies” to these problems – have only made them worse. The great “educational utopia” as envisioned by our administrators/school board members/teachers associations/unions – has failed. And in a spectacular fashion.

      Not to lay the blame solely at the hands of the educational community alone. Their is both a parental problem and a separate cultural problem at play here. Most teachers show up to work everyday with the thought in mind to do their best in educating their charges. Their difficulty in doing so lies in the fact that they’re trying to educate a large part of the student population that does not respect them or bow to their classroom authority.

      I am lucky to have 2 close-relatives who have taught in RCS districts. One, 3rd and 4th grade teacher, and one 6th and 7th grade instructor. Both taught in the city for the better part of 30 years each. Both recently retired, and the stories they tell of students physically attacking them, slashing the tires on their cars, physical threats, being told to “F-off” by kids as young as 6 or 7, kids refusing to do homework assignments because their Momma or Aunt told them they didn’t have to – and other more vile aspects of their jobs. Fix that, and you’ll see a far different and much more favourable environment for these kids to learn in.

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