Are high profile murders with juvenile suspects part of a trend?
Steven Mayer, The Bakersfield Californian
Dec. 6–The headlines earlier this year were enough to leave an entire community shaken:
Five boys, some as young as 13, accused in beating death of 81-year-old man. Then it happened again:
Two teens charged in stabbing death of elderly couple in southwest Bakersfield. When underage boys — and sometimes girls — commit violent and serious felonies, communities struggle to respond. Some say it’s a symptom of a sick society where violent video games, single-parent families and glorification of gang culture have become commonplace. Others say shocking crimes committed by children are nothing new and still relatively rare, and that the advent of a new juvenile crime wave is not in evidence.
PROSECUTING KIDS One thing is certain. The Kern County District Attorney’s office is prosecuting more juvenile offenders as adults than before.
In the past year, the number of kids charged as adults increased exponentially. In 2006 there were nine. Last year the number of juveniles charged as adults was 52, according to statistics from the Kern County Probation Department’s juvenile division. Overall the numbers are growing as well.
Two years ago, about 17,000 minors faced possible criminal charges in Kern County. Two years later, that number had jumped by 11.8 percent. That’s not just population growth. During the same years, Kern’s juvenile population increased by just 2.3 percent, according to the U.S. Census.
BEHIND THE NUMBERS Much of the increase in kids being charged as adults can be attributed to a policy decision inside the DA’s office to take a harder line against juvenile offenders viewed as violent, serious or habitual, said Michael Vendrasco, the deputy district attorney who supervises the prosecution of juveniles in Kern County.
But Vendrasco sees other reasons for the increase as well. “Some crimes just stand out,” Vendrasco said.
“The public is concerned,” he added. “There are neighborhoods out there where the streets are not safe.” Defense attorneys say high-profile juvenile crimes that garner a lot of attention in the news media do not justify the conclusion that there’s a statistical increase in violent juvenile crime. In fact, juvenile crime has been dropping statewide.
In a 10-year period ending in 2005, the number of juvenile felony arrests fell by one-third, even as the population of juveniles in California increased by some 24 percent, according to a state analysis. “Statistically, you can demonstrate a decrease in juvenile crime,” said Kern County Public Defender Mark Arnold.
The increase in the number of juveniles prosecuted as adults is strictly a result of decisions made in the DA’s office, Arnold said. “It’s not a direct reflection of an increase in the number of juvenile offenses,” he said.
Criminal Law Blog
UNLAWFUL DETAINERS AND STALKERS/DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
Residential tenancies and domestic violence: AB 2052 effective 9-27-08 adds CC section 1946.7 which 1) authorizes tenant to notify landlord that tenant or household member was victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, and that the tenant intends to terminate the tenancy, 2) requires notice in writing (to be given within 60 days of date of order or officer’s report, or within time period set forth in CC Section 1946