Juvenile crime in DeKalb rose from 2015 to 2016, according to the last police department annual report – and overall crime this year is on track to increase from last year.
The most recent DeKalb Police annual report says there were 480 juvenile offenses in 2016. That tops the 2015 figure by more than one hundred offenses; there were the same number of juvenile offenses in 2014 as there were in 2015.
DeKalb Police Commander Jason Leverton says the reason for the increase in juvenile crime is unknown. It could be anything from a larger number of juveniles living in the city to copycat crimes by individuals in the age group that is more likely to commit those crimes.
“So, it’s hard to say exactly if there’s any one thing that it could be attributed to, other than it probably is a host of factors,” Leverton said.
When we’re talking about juvenile crime, we’re talking about crimes that perpetrators 17 years old or younger commit for which they can’t be tried as adults. With that said, the juvenile crime data here generally does not include crimes like murder or assault.
Something else to keep in mind is that some information on these types of crimes is restricted. For example, police will not release the name of a juvenile who committed a crime, and they may not even release any physical descriptions, age, or even the location of a crime if it would make the juvenile offender too identifiable to the public.
However, for our purposes here, something like the general number of juvenile crimes per year – even by general demographic -- would not be classified.
Leverton says the department did notice a correlation in crimes committed by juveniles. They tend to happen more in neighborhoods where there are more juveniles.
“Now, you might look at it on one hand and say that kind of makes sense,” Leverton said. “But again, those neighborhoods are also ones that are generally more populated, probably have more opportunity to commit crimes in the fact that there are more vehicles present because, again, one of our increases was theft from motor vehicles.”
Leverton says there were increases in property crimes as well.
Leverton says there has been more crime from the beginning of this year through last month than there was from January through April 2016. He says that could suggest overall crime this year may increase from last year.
According to data provided by DeKalb Police, the majority of juvenile offenses occurred between 6:01 p.m. and midnight in the years 2011 through 2016. There also were more male offenders than female.
From 2011 to 2015, the majority of juvenile offenders were white. However, in 2016, the majority of those offenders were black.
Leverton says meetings for the county’s Juvenile Justice Council are well-attended by law enforcement, social service workers and other community members. He says the council meets once a month to talk about juvenile crime in the area and ways to address the issue.
Leverton says the council also gives tips and reminders for the community to prevent theft, like making sure you lock your car. He says DeKalb police are also taking their own initiative to address the increase.
“There’s a number of things that we’re trying to do, even with increased patrols,” Leverton said. “We’ve more recently added, just on our patrol side, increased foot patrols and vehicle patrols in the neighborhoods that have had more of these instances of, again, especially in the property crimes, whether it’s burglary of vehicles or burglary to residences, knowing that juveniles are committing probably at least a percentage of those. So again, we try to combat it from, you know, all angles that we can.”
Leverton says the police department is always willing to listen to anyone who’s willing to discuss the topic.
“We feel our view is fairly comprehensive, but then again, we’re involved somewhat so deeply with all of the situations from the crimes that occur to dealing with the victims and then apprehending suspects and dealing with the suspects and making arrests and so forth,” Leverton said. “So sometimes that more birds-eye view from a community member that might not know all of these details is actually helpful for us.”
Jack King, a sociology instructor at Northern Illinois University, says the academic department is working on a report about juvenile crime in DeKalb for the county’s Juvenile Justice Council. King says the research is in its beginning stages, and the goal is to release the report later this summer.