Why This Measure?
Youth delinquency includes theft, runaways, assault, obstructing justice, disorderly conduct, trespass, ungovernable, weapons, burglary, illegal possession, drug offenses, curfew violations, criminal mischief, and more activities that worry almost all of us in our own or anybodys kids. We want to see fewer of these behaviors, fewer severe incidents, and fewer kids following a path that gets them into worse trouble. In Missoula, District Court judges have given Youth Court the authority to handle any youth charges. Most cases are received as a referral from law enforcement as the result of a citation being issued to the child. However, they also accept referrals from school, parents, and youth themselves. Citations are reviewed, a probation officer is assigned, and an intake hearing is held with the officer, the youth, and the parents.
We realize that the justice system isnt the only arena where we find troubled youth. We are unable in this measure to address important concerns such as foster care, other out-of-home placement, and severely emotionally disturbed young people.
Source: Youth Court
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Much juvenile offending is not reported. Some of the numbers reflect enforcement priorities. Often the juvenile justice system is called upon to intervene toward the end of offending careers, when the crime reduction potential is much lower. In an average year, about one-third are youth with more than one referral. It is important to remember that less than 5% of the numbers above reflect dangerous, chronic offenders who present a serious threat to public safety. But many Missoula officials are concerned about rising numbers and are especially concerned about increases in more violent crimes and crimes involving guns.
The more seriously involved a youth is with alcohol or other drugs, the more likely that juvenile is to be involved in delinquency. (1990 Drugs and Violence: Causes, Correlates, and Consequences) An MIP is a minor in possession of alcohol.
The most common youth offenses in Missoula County in the period from 1994 through 1996 (numbers represent annual average of the interval) were:
Misdemeanor Theft 370
Ungovernable, Truancy 234
Misdemeanor Assault 135
Disorderly Conduct 130
(Board of Crime Control)
In a 1992 survey of Missoula high school students, 30% said they had been in trouble with the police in the past year, and 26% said they had committed an act of vandalism in the past year. (Search Institute 1992)
Depending on a number of factors (such as the level of the offense, or a chronic troubled history with youth court), sometimes felony charges are filed and youths are taken before a District Court judge. The number of violence-related felony referrals from Youth Court to District Court for 1996 were:
Aggravated Burglary 1
Accessory to Burglary 7
Sexual Intercourse Without Consent 2
Sexual Assault 3
Negligent Homicide 1
Roughly one-half of all felony charges are not filed with District Court. (Youth Court)
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