By Suzanne Potter
This story was originally published by Public News Service.
A new report from The Sentencing Project debunks the myth of a post-pandemic crime wave fueled by young people.
In March, Congress held a hearing about a spike in carjackings in big cities like Chicago, but the report showed a drop in overall robberies by youth in 2020, and a drop in the share of crime committed by young people over the past 20 years.
Tara Raines, visiting assistant professor of psychology at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, said we need not fear children traumatized by the pandemic; we need to help them.
“We need to use strategies that have been proven to work: restorative, positive-behavior support strategies,” Raines urged. “Instead of falling back on fear and punitive measures of discipline.”
Youth accused of minor crimes in Nevada are often diverted to a juvenile assessment center, where they and their family can get counseling.
Richard Mendel, senior research fellow for The Sentencing Project and the report’s author, said locking teens up often backfires on society, making them more likely to reoffend, not less.
“This is not a moment to be panicking about youth crime,” Mendel contended. “Especially if that panic is going to lead us to embrace solutions that we know the evidence shows does not work.”
The Sentencing Project recommends placing fewer police officers on campus and investing more in mental-health services and after-school programs for teens.