High profile cases contrary to drop in juvenile crime

SPOKANE, Wash. - Juvenile crime down vo

While there have been several high-profile cases recently involving juvenile crime, you might be surprised to know that juvenile crime has been steadily declining since 1994.

In just the past month high school aged teens have been accused of murder, beatings, burglaries and most recently, an assault on a teen's mother with plans to kill her and eat her liver.

However, not only is the number of kids getting booked into juvenile detention down from this time last year but juvenile crime overall has been steadily declining since 1994.

"Our kids from our statistics have really been doing pretty well," Superior Court Judge Ellen Clark said. "I don't know what's going on right now. It seems to be just some blip that we're seeing with certain kids, with certain incidents. It's not the kids or the system overall."

Clark is Spokane's juvenile court judge and said recent headlines are not a true picture of what's going on with teenage crime.

"Actually the number of juvenile arrests is down. The number of referrals for cases is down. The number of filings for juvenile court cases  is down as well," she said.

She added that two out of three kids who do time at the juvenile detention center don't come back.

"We try to teach them better ways, replace the bad behavior with good behavior, give them goals and something to look forward to in their lives," Clark said.

The juvenile court staff is also taking the pulse of the kids who call downtown Spokane streets their home away from home. During interviews with 89 of them last June a survey found 45 percent of them want help finding a job and 24 percent said they had no legal source of income.

"They are without families, without money. They're without income. They want better than to be on the streets. The vast majority of them, they don't have anywhere else to go," Clark said.

To that end the juvenile court staff is handing out a notebook to street kids filled with phone numbers and addresses of places that can offer them food and shelter and job placement opportunities. Juvenile court has even started a bike patrol to be in contact with these young people before they end up in court or juvenile detention.