Are We Seeing A Spike In Juvenile Crime?

Tuesday, February 24th 2009, 9:47 pm
By: News On 6

By Ashli Sims, The News On 6

TULSA, OK-- Tulsa Police arrest five teenagers in less than two days.  They are all suspects in several robberies and burglaries.  Some detectives say they're rounding up the same young people again and again.  But, are we seeing a spike in juvenile crime?

Stealing guns, robbing apartment residents, even shooting a man in his own home, they're big time crimes.

Police say two teenagers arrested on Monday were part of a burglary ring that netted 22 guns and thousands of dollars worth of electronics.  Not even 24 hours later, police rounded up another three teenagers.  They're accused of robbing people at not one, not two, but three different east Tulsa apartment complexes.

Last month, some sixth graders were picked up for breaking into and trashing a Tulsa home.

"It's increasing with the juveniles.  That's the sad part, because that's the future of our city and country," said Tulsa Police Captain Karen Ford.

"It's cyclical," said Tulsa Juvenile Center Judge Doris Fransein.

Judge Doris Fransein has worked in juvenile justice for more than a decade.

"I think over the years, I've seen some months where there just seems to be a tremendous rise in crime. But, overall nationally, it's my understanding that juvenile crime has gone down," said Tulsa Juvenile Center Judge Doris Fransein.

Oklahoma's Office of Juvenile Affairs reports the number of juveniles in the system dropped slightly from 2006 to 2007.  But, those referred for violent crimes went up 5.5%.

Tulsa burglary detectives were frustrated, because they say some of the teens in handcuffs on Monday had been arrested before.

Judge Fransein says most kids in her courtroom learn their lesson the first time.

They go through their probation and we don't see them again. There is that very small percentage that we see over and over and over again," said Tulsa Juvenile Center Judge Doris Fransein.

Some young offenders just aren't being supervised; others are being used by adults.

Judge Fransein says we need more options to deal with young offenders, because sometimes incarceration can do more harm than good.

"They're going to come out. And, they're going to be back in the community in four or five or six years. So, why not do something with them now, rather than when it's too late," said Tulsa Juvenile Center Judge Doris Fransein.

The News On 6 asked Judge Fransein if we're being tough enough on juvenile offenders.  She said it depends.  Some kids have just made a mistake, others are repeatedly committing crimes.

The judge says maybe those kids should be treated as adults.