Today, Governor Rick Scott announced since January 2011, the number of juvenile arrests has dropped 23 percent statewide and the number of youth arrested for delinquency is down 24 percent – the lowest it has been since 1984.
Governor Scott said, “Today’s youth are the future workforce of Florida. By preventing juvenile delinquency, we are providing Florida’s youth with more opportunities to succeed. With juvenile arrests at the lowest rate in 30 years, and a crime rate that is on path to a 43 year low, it is clear that the efforts we are taking to create a safe, opportunistic environment in Florida are working.
“But we’re not done yet. We want to create an opportunity economy in Florida that will support jobs for generations to come. We’ll continue working with the Department of Juvenile Justice and law enforcement officials to protect our youth and keep Florida communities safe so that every Florida family has the opportunity to live their American Dream in the Sunshine State.”
Key indicators used to measure public safety and juvenile delinquency show that Florida had drastic reductions in nearly every juvenile offense category, including major offenses. This has enabled the Department of Juvenile Justice to operate with the smallest budget in 17 years.
Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) Secretary Wansley Walters said, “At DJJ, we are committed to providing the right services, in the right place, in the right way, at the right time. Community safety is actually compromised when youth are inappropriately arrested, so we have placed an emphasis on prevention and diversion efforts. Last year alone, the state invested nearly $11 million toward preventing juvenile delinquency, and these numbers are proof that we’re making the right reforms to keep our communities safe and our youth on the path to successful adulthood.”
Florida has the nation’s largest, centrally organized juvenile-justice agency, providing prevention, probation, detention (short-term secure housing) and residential (long-term secure housing) services for at-risk and delinquent youth in every community across the state.
In her quest to make Florida’s juvenile justice system the best in the nation, Secretary Walters and her team developed and implemented the “Roadmap to System Excellence,” which outlines the agency’s strategic plan to wisely allocate its resources to the most effective programs, services, and treatments at the most impactful points along the juvenile justice continuum.
In addition to record low juvenile arrests, Florida has seen the following significant improvements since FY 2010-2011:
- Florida's juvenile crime rate is down from 59 delinquency arrests per 1,000 juveniles during FY 2010-11 to 46 delinquency arrests for every 1,000 juveniles during FY 2012-13;
- School-based arrests declined by 27%;
- The number of arrests involving a felony offense dropped 17 percent;
- Murder/Manslaughter arrests decreased 52 percent;
- Admissions to secure detention declined 26 percent; and
- The number of youth in Florida transferred to adult court declined 36 percent.
Among the strategic measures in the Roadmap, DJJ seeks to shift residential resources to community-based interventions and realign existing resources to increase the availability of transitional services, such as services for vocational programming, employment, education, family support, transitional housing, and transportation.
Walters added, “Deterring youth from the juvenile justice system not only saves taxpayer dollars, it affords our state’s youth more opportunities to chase their dreams and when our state’s children succeed, we all reap the benefits.”
Mary Marx, President and CEO, PACE Center for Girls, Inc. said, “As these dramatic declines in rates of arrests for girls across our state demonstrate, stemming the tide of girls’ involvement in the juvenile justice system required a commitment to expanding community prevention and front-end diversion programs and services. PACE is a nationally recognized leader in helping keep girls out of this system and we are proud to be part of the continuum of programs and services committed to improving the lives of girls and young women across our state.”
Stacy Gromatski, president and CEO, Florida Network of Family Services said, “These outstanding declines in juvenile delinquency validate the story prevention advocates have been telling for years. When we reach kids early, we have an opportunity to make a difference and truly change the entire course of their lives. I commend DJJ Secretary Walters and Gov. Rick Scott for focusing on at-risk youth and I am thrilled that the Florida Network could be part of the solution."