October is Crime Prevention Month

When you hear the word “crime,” what comes to your mind? Maybe a man in black sneaking around after midnight? Everyone has their own image of what crime is, but the statistics might surprise you. Did you know that out of all the violent crimes (murder, assault, rape, robbery with a weapon, etc.) committed in the United States, 1 in 8 was attributed to juveniles (age 17 or younger). Of those juveniles arrested for violent crimes, 25% were committed by a child younger than 15 and 30% were committed by girls (in 2008, violent crime decreased for males and increased for females from previous years). Did you know that juveniles accounted for 26% of all property crime arrests in our nation? In 2008, police arrested a total of 2.11 million juveniles in America for crimes, such as assaults, theft, vandalism, disorderly conduct, drug abuse, and curfew violations.

Many of us imagine that crime is committed in the dead of night, but in fact, according to the National Institute on Out of School Time, violent juvenile crime triples between 3 to 8 p.m. Why? Approximately 8 million children, ages 5 to 14, spend time without adult supervision on a daily basis. Sixty percent of 6th to 12th grade students spend at least 2 hours at home every day without an adult. Parents are at work, and youth are left to their own devices after the school bell rings. Research shows that during after-school hours, not only do crime rates triple, but many unsupervised youngsters experiment with tobacco, alcohol, drugs, and sex. Teens who are unsupervised after school are 37% more likely to become teen parents.

When you hear the phrase “crime prevention,” what comes to your mind? Maybe more police patrols? Again, research results might surprise you. The best forms of crime prevention for juveniles are mentoring initiatives, after-school programs, family support services, and youth leadership development. The U.S. Department of Education reports that after school programs “help children of all ages stay safe and out of trouble; less likely to commit crimes or be victimized; less likely to engage in risky behavior such as substance abuse; improve academic performance; raise self-confidence; develop better social skills; handle conflicts in more socially acceptable ways; and provide higher aspirations for future.”

Are teens capable of staying home alone safely? Yes. The problem is that consistently being unsupervised every day after school opens the door to so many opportunities for bad behavior. Help prevent crime by getting local teens involved in after-school programs, clubs or sports. Many communities offer youth centers for free. Middle Earth offers such a program in our local area of Somerset County, New Jersey. You can find options in your area by contacting your local government or United Way.

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