SAN ANTONIO – The number of teens involved in felony-related crimes is on the rise, according to the Bexar County Juvenile Probation Department.
Numbers released by the agency show a 28% increase this year so far, only halfway through the year.
Chief Probation Officer Lynne Wilkerson said it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact cause for the rise.
“The biggest increase is in robberies. We have about doubled the number of robberies so far this year compared to what we had last year,” she said. “Another big increase is in burglary of vehicles and in assaults, and the assaults are the misdemeanor assaults as well.”
More teens are also facing charges in connection with drugs and weapons. Teens involved in sexual assault cases are also trending.
“We see an increased access to pornography on cellphones, and we think that probably generates a lot of interest among these very young children and this kind of activity,” Wilkerson said.
Here’s a breakdown of the numbers of felonies and the total number of cases the agency handled:
2016: 755 felonies out of 4,028 cases; 18% of them were felonies
2017: 901 felonies out of 4,300 cases; 20% of them were felonies
2018: 985 felonies out of 4,245 cases; 23% of them were felonies
Between January and June 2018, 455 felonies out of 2,012 cases; 23% of them were felonies
Between January to June 2019, 583 felonies out of 2,177 cases; 28% of them were felonies.
The agency said about 18% of the total juveniles are scored as high risk to re-offend.
There is an overall 28% recidivism rate, meaning juveniles will re-offend. That means 72% go on to become law-abiding citizens.
Of those at the high-risk level to re-offend, 40% of them will be charged with a new crime within two years of finishing the juvenile program.
Wilkerson said every year, 69% of the youngsters who enter the system are first-time offenders.
The Bexar County Juvenile Probation Department handles the punishment based on each child individually, but it also offers therapy, education and mentorship to help them overcome their struggles.
Wilkerson said there are several factors that play into the causes for youngsters committing crimes, including mental health, family dynamics and lack of attachment to school and family.
The solution to preventing juveniles from ending up in the system, she said, is good parenting.
“Love your children. Take care of them, and good parenting goes a long way to keeping kids out of trouble,” Wilkerson said.
The Bexar County Juvenile Probation Department is looking for good male mentors. Roughly three out of four juveniles who enter the center are males. Anyone who is interested is asked to call 210-335-1828.