Summer juvenile arrests down in city, up in county

Published 11:53 am Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Juvenile arrests in the city decreased this year during the summer months from last year, though they were still higher than in the county, where the number of arrests rose slightly, according to figures provided by the Vicksburg Police and Warren County Sheriff’s departments.

“The county is more spread out,” Sheriff Martin Pace said. “The city police are dealing with a more concentrated population and more foot traffic.”

During the two full months that schools were not in session, June and July, Vicksburg police made 39 felony and misdemeanor arrests of people 18 and younger. Last year, police recorded 60 arrests.

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In the county, deputies made 22 juvenile arrests in June and July; last year, the number was 14.

Pace said numbers can be skewed by multiple juveniles being arrested for one crime.

“If five violators break into a house, statistically, that’s five arrests for one burglary,” he explained, “but you have just one victim.”

That was the case July 12, he said, when three 12-year-olds were arrested for breaking into an apartment in the complex where they lived and stealing electronics and a purse.

Top offenses in the city were malicious mischief and first-offense shoplifting. In the county, on top were burglary and disorderly conduct.

Mitchell Dent, deputy chief and a former police chief, said he believes community involvement is making a difference in the city.

“There are a lot of organizations that have recognized the need to provide positive outlets for the youth,” he said. “Most of these youth crimes are spontaneous. Activities provided during that time frame are pulling kids away from committing crimes.”

Warren County Youth Court Judge Johnny Price, who has worked with juveniles since 2002, agrees.

“We’ve got little leagues all over this town,” Price said. “We’ve got a swimming pool, we’ve got a library. You are going to have in society, and have always had in society, a small percentage that are not going to make it. There’s no cure for it. All you can do is keep that statistic as low as you can.”

Pace, who has been sheriff for 15 years, said more programs are needed.

“Any time you can have supervised activity, you’re reducing the possibility of idle time,” he said. “The big picture is that the answer does not rely on law enforcement and the courts, it takes the community.”

Youth activities this summer included:

• Central Mississippi Prevention Service’s second annual six-week camp, which saw more than 130 participants.

• Vicksburg Police Department’s eighth annual Street Ball program, which serves up to 450 youths ages 7 to 18 each year.

• The Child and Parent Center’s first summer camp that drew 30 youths ages 14 to 17. The CAP Center also offers mentoring programs and parenting classes.

“We know there are a lot of good kids out there,” said CAP Center director Erma Driver. “We just need to intervene. The youth court system is working as best as they can. We do save some of them.”