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Violence against Maryland youth sees "significant increase" despite yearslong decline in youth crime, research finds

Violence against Maryland youth sees "significant increase" despite yearslong decline in youth crime
Violence against Maryland youth sees "significant increase" despite yearslong decline in youth crime 02:53

BALTIMORE -- Most categories of youth crime have continued a yearslong downward trend in Maryland, but there is a worrying uptick of young Marylanders victimized by gun violence, research by the state's Department of Juvenile Services found. 

Crime, including violent crime, is below pre-pandemic levels for youth and has generally been declining for more than a decade, the department said. It did see an increase of overall juvenile crime over the last two years since its pandemic low. 

The department said complaints remain below pre-pandemic levels and are down by over 50% over the past decade. 

Despite that, violent gun crime committed against young people has "increased significantly," especially in Baltimore City, the department said. 

The number of young people shot has risen dramatically, four times what it was a decade ago, the data shows.

The number of youth under the department's care who are victimized by gun violence also increased. 

"Murder and attempted murder arrests for juveniles in Baltimore City have consistently increased over the past five years, while juvenile arrests for murder across the state fluctuated somewhat through 2021," the department said. "The number of youth who are victims of violent crimes has increased significantly, with non-fatal shooting of young people quadrupling statewide over the past decade. "

Recent incidents include a 12-year-old boy shot earlier this month sending people scrambling at the nearby Dunbar football game.

A 14-year-old girl was shot on Friday evening near Carver VoTech in West Baltimore.

"We pray, in some form or fashion, we can get to a resolution where we can stop some of these senseless crimes that are going on and really figure out a solution that can help people," said Baltimore resident Julian Todd.

Todd, who lives less than a block from where the 14-year-old girl was shot last week in West Baltimore, is hopeful the city can get a handle on the violence that's harming so many young lives.

"Children are only as good as their leaders, so if we can put some things in place for the parents to have what they need, I believe it will have a trickle effect for the younger generation," Todd said.

The overall number of non-fatal juvenile shooting victims in Maryland has risen more than 300 percent between 2013 and 2022, and is up 189 percent in Baltimore City alone during that period. 

"It sort of indicates that kids aren't getting worse. It's just that there's much, much, much more availability of guns," Vincent Schiraldi, the Department of Juvenile Services Secretary, said. "Young people are carrying guns because they think other young people are carrying guns to protect themselves. It just creates a volatile situation and it's worse in urban areas because there are more kids to bump into one another."

Richard Worley, Baltimore Police Acting Commissioner, recently addressed juvenile crime numbers before the City Council Oversight Hearing. 

"Unfortunately the youth violence is where we're really suffering this year. We've had a lot more incidents where young people have become a victim," acting BPD Commissioner Richard Worley told the public safety committee on August 30th. "…The shooting victims are up 50 percent and robbery victims are up 79 percent."

Police responded to a deadly mass shooting near Edmondson Westside High School back in January when five students were shot, including 16-year-old Deanta Dorsey, who died.

Six months later, Baltimore experienced the largest mass shooting in the city's history in Brooklyn. Most of the victims were juveniles, and one suspect was on home monitoring at the time for bringing a gun into his high school just months earlier. 

The department noted that youth of color are overrepresented as incarcerated youth and victims in the state's juvenile justice system, but they are underrepresented in community-based rehabilitation options, like probation or diversion.

While some critics say the state's juvenile justice reforms, including restrictions on police interviewing youth and prohibiting criminal charges until age 13 in most cases, have lead to a lack of consequences, the juvenile services secretary says harsh punishment is not the answer and is taking a more holistic approach. 

"Incarceration is hardly the only or most effective course," Schiraldi said. "The state is set to open Thrive Academy at the end of the month targeting the most at-risk youth in Baltimore City and County with intensive mentoring and services to figure out which young people are most at risk of committing gun violence and focus our resources on them." 

One area where juvenile criminal complaints are up is for auto theft, more than 60 percent in the past four years, with the online challenge showing how to easily steal Hyundais and Kias. 

The House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on juvenile justice reform Wednesday afternoon to lay the groundwork for possible action in Annapolis next year.

Maryland's top federal prosecutor joined efforts last week to help stem youth violence. The Maryland U.S. Attorney's Office released an emotional public service announcement drawing attention to youth impacted by gun violence. 

Later this month, Department of Juvenile Services is set to launch the new Thrive Academy focusing on the most at-risk youth in Baltimore City and County. They plan to expand into Prince George's County.

Thrive Academy will provide life coaching, therapy and even relocation services for teens and their families who are in danger. 

Secretary Schiraldi said DJS wants "to figure out which young people are most at risk of committing gun violence and focus our resources on them."

You can read the entire state report on juvenile crime trends over the past decade here.

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