Juvenile delinquency is on the rise in Georgia, particularly in Atlanta and surrounding areas. In fact, AJC reports that the juvenile crime rate in Fulton County reached 15 times that of the national average. “Slider” crimes at gas stations reportedly make up the main reason teens now end up in juvenile detention centers. This crime occurs when teens drive by gas stations and steal women’s purses while the owner is focused on filling up her car.
This type of crime has spread up to Cobb County. The police chief states that the crime rate is actually down in the area, except when it comes to property crimes. These include breaking into homes and cars. He told AJC that when investigations led them to suspects, he kept seeing the same offenders pass through the system.
In fact, 65% of the juveniles who make it through the system soon return. Some of the teens identified easy money as the reason for participating in these activities. AJC estimates that they could bring in as much as $400 per day. One other teen alluded to societal pressures about the expectations of certain demographic groups and the self-fulfilling prophecy that often follows.
While it may seem otherwise, Georgia is in no great hurry to detain juveniles. AJC states that the Department of Juvenile Justice often sends offenders to community programs that may help them turn their lives around. Others may serve just short-term sentences. Some do serve long-term incarceration. One potential reason the DJJ tries to find other alternatives is that it costs $90,000 per year to keep just one minor behind bars.
In spite of all this, Georgia enjoys national acclaim as a leader in juvenile justice. In 2018, the governor invested $20 million into juvenile reform. The services expected to follow from this include offering mental health services to at-risk youths. It is not yet clear what effect this may have on the rate of juvenile offenses going forward.