Faced with a troubling spike in New Orleans juvenile crime, city officials and judges announced plans Wednesday to detain all young people who commit serious crimes and a summer jobs program for youths who have been arrested, reports The Advocate. The new strategies are on top of promised police enforcement of the city’s annual summer curfew, set to go into effect Saturday. Mayor LaToya Cantrell praised the plans as a step in the right direction. She said the Juvenile Court will allow judges to use their discretion in determining when to release juvenile offenders, rather than depending on the screening tool that is primarily used to make those decisions now.
“I believe you need many tools in a toolbox to address crime across the board,” Cantrell said. “We have seen previously incidents (where) our residents (lost) their lives … and we have to be as proactive as possible.” That was apparently a reference to a 17-year-old who is accused of fatally shooting a woman and wounding her husband after he tried to break into their car earlier this month. The city’s moves were panned by some child advocates as having the potential to do more harm than good. The city should instead invest in programs that provide an alternative to juvenile detention, said Aaron Clark-Rizzio of the Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights. “We already have a tool to determine whether a child poses a risk to public safety,” he said. “If the court wants to disregard this tool, then we will overcrowd our juvenile detention centers.” He said enforcing a curfew will do nothing to curb juvenile crime and could lead to excessive targeting of black children, which could erode those children’s relationships with the police. Juvenile arrests have grown: There were 786 juvenile felony arrests in 2016, 965 in 2017 and 1,232 in 2018.