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North Carolina leads nation in drop in juvenile crime

Juvenile crime has decreased throughout the nation in the past five years, with the decrease in North Carolina's juvenile crime rate being one of the highest in the country. North Carolina has attributed the decrease to their youth crime model of offering treatment instead of punishment for juvenile offenders.

Violent crime in North Carolina has declined by 14 percent since 2002, with juvenile crime rates also dropping in the state. Teens under the age of 16 charged with a violent offense decreased by 37 percent and the number of teens under the age of 16 arrested in North Carolina decreased by roughly 40 percent.

North Carolina began using a new juvenile justice program that focuses on youth crime prevention, treatment and education for juvenile offenders instead of sentencing juveniles to a youth detention center.

The community has played a large role in reducing the juvenile crime rate in North Carolina. Local police have focused on placing juveniles in treatment programs instead of sending them to juvenile detention centers or prison.

Community programs have partnered with the N.C. Department of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to offer juvenile offenders mental health and substance abuse treatment, counseling, rehabilitation and parenting classes for juveniles and their families.

In the past, juvenile court systems usually incarcerated juvenile offenders. Now, the state's juvenile justice system focuses on alternatives to incarceration that will help juvenile offenders develop life skills, receive counseling and address educational needs.

These programs have helped North Carolina reduce the amount of juveniles sent to prison throughout the past decade and the state's rehabilitation approach has become a national model for the juvenile justice system.

Source: Charlotte Observer, "Juvenile crime sees significant dip in N.C.," Thomas McDonald and Megan Cooke, Oct. 6, 2012

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