Juvenile arrests increase in 2000

Despite increase in arrests, most juvenile crimes committed are for minor offenses

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When crime increases, residents often become concerned as to reasons for it. In Craig, although crime statistics rose in 2000, the seriousness of the offenses has decreased.

Craig Police Chief Walt Vanatta recently presented the results of the department's annual crime statistics survey to the City Council, and those numbers indicate that an increase in juvenile crime continues to be the biggest factor throughout the city.

Juvenile crime rose 41 percent in 2000, with 236 minors being charged with crimes. However, according to Vanatta, these statistics do not accurately portray the type of juvenile crime that is being committed in Craig.

"A lot of the arrests that we make in which juveniles are concerned are what we call status offenses, where the crime that they have committed would not be considered a crime if they were an adult," he said. "This can range from a situation where a kid runs away from home, to loitering, curfew violations or possession of alcohol by minors. Anything that an adult wouldn't be arrested for, but a minor would, is considered a status offense. Those are the largest number of arrests that we have as far as juveniles are concerned."

Curfew violations saw the biggest leap in juvenile crime statistics, increasing 338 percent from 1999. Seventy minors were arrested last year, up from 16 arrests in 1999. Children under age 14 are not allowed in public without a parent between the hours of 10 p.m. and dawn. People ages 14 through 18 are not allowed in public places between 10 p.m. and dawn on weekdays and midnight and dawn on weekends.

"We try to be a little more lenient on the curfew law in the summer when it doesn't get dark until almost 10 p.m., but it is still a law that we do enforce," Vanatta said. "I know that when I was young, we used to do the same thing, but often, if these kids are just hanging around doing nothing it opens up opportunities to do things that they probably shouldn't be doing."

Runaway reports were up 94 percent, with 68 reports in 2000, up from 35 in 1999. Liquor violations among minors also rose slightly from 18 arrests in 1999 to 20 in 2000.

According to school resource officer Carolyn Wade, some juveniles who commit crimes often give the excuse that there is nothing to do in Craig. However, she believes the minors who can't find anything to do are often those who are not looking for something to do.

"There's all kinds of things that kids can do, but when we hear complaints like that, it is usually from the kids who aren't trying to find a constructive way to spend their time," she said. "You can float the Yampa River, play soccer at Woodbury Park or go for a hike. It is better than going around and shooting someone's dog with paintballs, which is another problem that we have been seeing lately."

Deputy District Attorney David Waite has also noticed an increase in certain aspects of juvenile crime, although he believes the overall numbers remain fairly constant. Vandalism in particular, has seen a high number of offenses over the last three years, with 255 arrests being made in 1998, 265 arrests in 1999 and 279 arrests last year.

"Vandalism among teens has shown some concerning signs," he said. "It is not as though more crimes are being committed, but the cost of those crimes has been increasing. Juvenile crime has become more serious dollar-wise. What used to be a crime that cost in the tens or hundreds of dollars, has now become one that is in the thousands of dollars."

Adult crime has risen 2 percent in the last year, although there were no homicides and only one robbery arrest made.

A statistic that concerns Vanatta is the increased number of assaults that have occurred in the last few years. Although aggravated assaults dropped 19 percent in the last year, both simple assaults and arrests on intimidation charges have increased. Total arrests for simple assaults have risen 14 percent, while intimidation arrests rose 3 percent.

"Although a 14 percent rise doesn't sound like a lot, for a community our size that is quite a bit," Vanatta said. "One-hundred and eleven simple assaults is a lot for a community of 10,000 people."

According to Vanatta, alcohol plays a major role in most of the assault cases the department sees, especially in the case of domestic violence.

"I would have to say that about 98 percent of the domestic violence cases that we see in Craig are alcohol related," he said. "So that plays a part, but there are a particularly high number of assaults that we saw in the last year, which is something that we are keeping an eye on."

The number of bad checks written rose a dramatic 1,100 percent in 2000, an increase Vanatta attributes to an increased effort by the police department.

"Michelle Anderson, our evidence technician, has been pursuing those and trying to get those cleared up," Vanatta said. "That is something that wasn't really focused on a whole lot before."

Theft continues to be a problem in Craig, both for minors and adults. Shoplifting arrests rose 70 percent in 2000, with 51 adults and six juveniles being arrested.

"What we need to remember is that a fair share of these arrests are repeat offenders," Waite said. "For the most part, the crimes that we have been seen have been remaining pretty steady."

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