A recent report released by the Bexar County Juvenile Probation has revealed a concerning increase in crimes committed by children in the area. Non-violent felonies, including vehicle theft, gun possession, arson, and drug offenses, saw a significant rise of 40% compared to the previous year. Additionally, violent felonies such as murder and aggravated robbery, as well as misdemeanor charges like mischief and theft, both experienced a 12% increase.
Judge William ‘Cruz’ Shaw, who presides over juvenile cases, expressed his concern regarding this alarming trend. He emphasized his desire to prevent children from entering his courtroom, stating, “I always tell these kids, ‘If I know your name, that’s a problem.'”
Judge Shaw further explained that a small group of individuals between the ages of 10 and 17 are repeatedly engaging in criminal activities. According to him, there are several factors driving this surge in juvenile crimes. He highlighted the influence of social media, explaining that some children commit crimes for attention and ‘likes’ online. To combat this, Judge Shaw strives to have genuine conversations with the children and their families, helping them understand the gravity of their actions and the real-life consequences for both themselves and their victims.
While victim impact statements can be effective in conveying the repercussions of their actions, some offenders display no remorse. Judge Shaw emphasized the importance of community involvement, urging churches, schools, families, and neighborhoods to intervene at an early age. He highlighted the resources available at the Bexar County Juvenile Detention Center, including a school, counseling services, and a clinic. However, he lamented that it is unfortunate that children often have to be arrested before accessing these valuable resources.
Fortunately, a new law in Texas, House Bill 3186, is aimed at keeping kids out of the justice system. Minors charged with Class C misdemeanors like alcohol possession and petty theft now have the option to participate in diversion programs, bypassing the courts. This law provides an opportunity for these individuals to develop skills or trades that can positively impact their futures.
Currently, approximately 120 children are detained at the Bexar County Juvenile Detention Center. The length of detention varies depending on the severity of the crime and the risk posed to the community, with some offenders being detained for up to 10 days. In cases involving severe crimes such as murder or aggravated assault, children can be certified as adults and face more severe consequences.
The surge in juvenile crimes highlights the need for early intervention, community engagement, and access to resources that can steer children away from criminal behavior. By addressing these underlying issues, it is hoped that the number of children entering the justice system will decrease, allowing them to lead productive lives and contribute positively to society.