Dougherty Co. Juvenile Cases Decrease - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Dougherty Co. juvenile cases decrease

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ALBANY, GA (WALB) -

Juvenile crime is down in Dougherty County. Judges say the decrease in 2012 is one of the first they've seen in years. They hope changes to the juvenile justice system that Georgia lawmakers are considering will continue to lower crime involving young people.

Dougherty County Judges says the decrease in juvenile crime cases is a welcome and unexpected change and hope that Georgia legislators give them the tools to keep that trend, and kids lives, going in the right direction.

Dougherty County's Juvenile Courtroom saw almost 200 fewer kids 16 years and younger, and 314 fewer cases in 2012 than in 2011.   An unexpected but welcome change for Judges.

Dougherty County Juvenile Court Judge Herbie Solomon said, "Perhaps they realize that crime does not pay, at least for this time period."

But Judges know that community mentoring programs aimed at leading children in the right direction have increased tremendously in Albany in recent years, and seem to be working.

Dougherty County Juvenile Court Associate Judge Richard Brooker said, "When a child is nurtured and cared for it has an impact on them."

Judges also credit law enforcement, especially the Albany Gang Unit, with spending more time counseling kids instead of just arresting them.

Albany Police Gang Unit Lt. Michael Persley said, "You can check the records.  To where without community involvement crime goes up.  But with the community involvement crime goes down.  The community, they are the biggest benefactor."

 Georgia legislators want to lock up fewer kids, and are re-writing Georgia's juvenile justice code now in Atlanta.  The Judges hope legislators will not limit their choices so they can punish youth crime, but also do what's best for the child.

Brooker said "What will it take to get this child's attention.  Turn them around. Get him involved in positive thing, good wholesome activities.  But also the protection of the community is another aspect that the legislature has directed judges to consider."

 "I'm in favor of more community based treatment, but we still have to have all the tools available to judges for those children who haven't gotten the message," Solomon said.

Dougherty County Judges say more electronic monitoring of kids has proved to be a good deterrent to juvenile crime.

The Judges said one thing they recommend that can be done in Albany to fight juvenile crime, is to stop expulsions from school.  They recommend that the Dougherty County School System not put kids out of supervision for punishment, saying that leads to worse crime problems.

Nationally the rate of juvenile detention has fallen to its lowest level in 35 years, with Georgia joining most other states in reducing the number of incarcerated young people.

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