LIMA — Recently, law enforcement has noticed younger children are committing more serious, mature crimes for their age.
On Wednesday, the Lima Police Department reported that two 11-year-old girls had a physical altercation because one of the girls was using the “n-word.” Reports indicated the girls had been wanting to fight for a few weeks.
In February, a 17-year-old teen shot and killed a 19-year-old and could be tried as an adult for the crime. A detective said the boy encountered two people he did not like Jan. 28 in the 700 block of Greenlawn Avenue, according to a previous Lima News story.
Juvenile arrests make up 11 percent of the arrests made in 2012 in Allen County, according to statistics from the FBI. Though the percentage is lower than the past, the crimes have become more violent.
Officers report domestic violence cases, assaults, shootings, sex crimes and others among juveniles.
Juveniles also typically do not understand the severity of their crimes, said Tim Goedde, a Lima Police Department officer who handles juvenile cases.
Previously, juveniles who have committed serious, violent crimes are some of the most well-behaved kids in the Allen County Juvenile Detention Center, said Berlin Carroll, court administrator for Allen County Juvenile Court.
Although, he has seen that trend change recently.
Juveniles seem to have lost a sense of self-respect while they are in the Allen County Juvenile Detention Center within the last three years, Carroll said.
“They have been habitually causing themselves problems,” he said of his experience working with juveniles. “I’ve been here 22 years and I can tell you that techniques that worked easily on modifying behavior 20 years ago don’t work on today’s kids. … They don’t even respect themselves.”
Goedde said a part of the problem could be attributed to the culture of social media.
“I don’t know if that’s through social media and the acceptance of [violent crimes] and they think it’s neat, so they want to do it. I think [social media is] a negative,” Goedde said.
“I think there’s more girls becoming more involved in more serious crimes,” he added.
Though the number of female violent offenders is on the rise, the number of violent juvenile males is still the largest in numbers. Goedde said he has seen the number of assaults among female juveniles increase, and attributes some of that increase to videos on social media that “go viral.”
In 2012, 19.4 percent of violent crimes were committed by juveniles in Allen County, the FBI reported. Statistics for Putnam and Auglaize counties were not available because they did not meet the threshold for the FBI’s coverage indicator.
Lima Police Chief Kevin Martin said the policy for arresting juveniles is no different than the policies for adults. The goal is not to incarcerate children, Martin said, as officials do not want juveniles to get used to being incarcerated at an early age.
In domestic violence situations where the juvenile is the offender, however, Goedde said if family members allow it, the juvenile will be removed from the home and placed into the detention center for a period of time until the situation de-escalates at home.
Goedde said there are certain addresses of homes he recognizes in perpetual instances of violent children, which makes him more suspicious of an incident if he is called to one.
There are nearly no differences in the law for juveniles compared to adult cases, however there are more rehabilitative options for juveniles after the offense has been committed.
Reports of violent juveniles in the county are low, said Judge Mark Spees, of Auglaize County Juvenile Court. Spees said this is largely because of a “good family structure” in the “conservative, rural” community. Rehabilitative options are offered to juveniles because their brains are not fully developed, and can still be taught good behavior, Spees said.
Judge Michael Borer of Putnam County Juvenile Court said he doesn’t see many violent juveniles either, as there is a “generally concerned populous” for the well-being of juveniles in Putnam County. Borer said there have been juveniles who have been sentenced to the Ohio Department of Youth Services, however the number is small.
DYS is known to house juvenile offenders who have committed extremely violent crimes.
Judge Glenn Derryberry of Allen County Juvenile Court said violent juvenile offenders are placed in DYS for the protection of the community.
“If they’re a violent offender, they’re using weapons, they go to DYS; they’re probably not going to get out until they’re 18 and I’m not going to see them again,” he said.
Sentencing or rehabilitation?
Carroll said Ohio law engages in preventative services practices for juvenile delinquency. Programs such as community control include intervention services.
For sentencing, Carroll said the Allen County Juvenile Detention Center offers two in-house options for juveniles who are sentenced for crimes. The first is punitive time in secured detention, which cannot exceed 90 days on any single delinquent charge. The second option is a secured residential treatment plan, which offers secured intervention and therapy, a long-term program that is executed in four phases, he said.
Other options outside of Allen County include the use of either the Juvenile Residential Center in Bowling Green or the West Central Juvenile Detention Center in Troy, however neither facility allows female offenders.
Carroll said the Allen County facility also has an on-staff psychologist that offers in-house therapy to juveniles.