LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - According to the Lake Charles Police Department, the overall juvenile crime rate is down for 2018, as compared to last year, but authorities say the severity of the crimes has escalated.
“Our statistics show that our records last year, 247 juvenile arrests,” Lt. Kevin Kirkum with LCPD, said. “This year, and we’re at the end of the year. We are at about 143. So, the number of total arrests has significantly gone down as far as juvenile arrests. But this year, 47 percent of those 143 are felony arrests, which means those are serious grade crimes.”
According to Lt. Kevin Kirkum, with juvenile arrests this year, 65 were felony arrests, 62 were misdemeanors, and 16 were status offenses or crimes only juveniles can be arrested for. Kirkum says a majority of those crimes were burglaries and thefts from cars and homes, as well as firearm possession. He says there could be a number of reasons behind the uptick in felony arrests, such as peer influence.
“Nowadays, you have kids who have a lot more freedom than normal," Kirkum said. "And they are hanging around older kids who have access to vehicles and transportation. Some of them may be getting these kids to do these things so that they won’t get in trouble. You also have juveniles at an age where they have reached the age of culpability, which is 10 in Louisiana. They are getting out more and being able to get around. Also, gun sales have gone up, so we have a lot more guns out on the streets. So, that means when they are breaking into homes, there are more guns available to steal from homes, cars, and businesses.”
Kirkum says the department’s “curfew details” have helped the overall juvenile crime rate go down.
“We go out at different times of the year and when children are out past curfew, we take those kids into custody," Kirkum said. “We check them with the officer of juvenile justice services and we also issue citations to the parents.”
He also believes programs through the Office of Juvenile Services is playing a role.
“They are down because we are doing more diverting. In other words, truancy, trespassing, shoplifting, you know, in those cases, instead of making arrests, we are sending kids to the resource center, and that helps bring the total number of arrests down also,” Kirkum said.
Kirkum says he hopes programs like these continue to help keep young people out of trouble.