KIYC: NJ mayors call for tougher penalties for young criminals, but are juvenile crime stats increasing?

A review of crime data by Kane In Your Corner finds juvenile crime in New Jersey, while rising, is still significantly lower than it was a decade ago.

Walt Kane

Apr 26, 2024, 2:23 AM

Updated 32 days ago

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A recent rash of high-profile crimes involving juveniles has led some New Jersey mayors to call for tougher laws to punish young offenders, saying juvenile crime has become a crisis. But a review of crime data by Kane In Your Corner finds juvenile crime in New Jersey, while rising, is still significantly lower than it was a decade ago.
A video of an attempted carjacking in Edison went viral last month. Three teens could be seen dragging the driver of an SUV out of his vehicle in a parking lot. Edison Mayor Sam Joshi and other local political leaders held a news conference in the wake of the incident to call for tougher punishments for juvenile offenders.
“The overwhelming majority of the crimes here in Edison or Marlboro or most of Middlesex County or most of New Jersey happen to be committed by juveniles and our laws need to be more strict,” Joshi said.
Kane In Your Corner reviewed years of uniform crime data and found the numbers don’t support Joshi’s assertion. The data shows offenders aged 19 and under commit 15% of violent crime in New Jersey, and 11% of property crime. While the numbers show juvenile crime has been rising steadily since the end of 2021, juveniles are still committing less than half as many offenses as they were in 2012.
Joshi says his comments were intended to address certain crimes, particularly burglary and home invasion, which he says are committed by juveniles with greater frequency in Edison. Joshi is calling on state lawmakers to make it easier for prosecutors to charge juvenile offenders as adults.
New Jersey currently allows juveniles to be charged as adults for certain serious offenses, including murder and sexual assault. While carjacking is on that list of offenses, nonviolent property crimes, such as burglary, are not.
“There’s a lot of fear-mongering going on,” says Jim Sullivan, deputy policy director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey. He says charging juveniles as adults is not the solution.
“If incarceration improved public safety, the United States would be the safest nation in the world,” Sullivan says. “But that's not the case. And there's no reason to believe that bringing back outdated failed tough-on-crime policies would work better this time, especially for juveniles.”


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