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Orange County Leads Florida in Juvenile Arrests

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Central Florida leads the rest of the state in juvenile arrests. Photo: St. Edwards University.

Central Florida leads the rest of the state in juvenile arrests. Photo: St. Edwards University.

Law enforcement agencies in Orange County arrest more minors than in any other part of the state according to the latest data from the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice. The agency’s annual Delinquency Profile for 2015-16 finds that officers across Orange County booked more than 6,547 youth during that time and 7,003 the previous year.

More than 60 percent of those arrests were of black youth for nonviolent offenses.

“Rather than treating them as sort of a child in need of education, I think what you’re seeing, and certainly for children of color, you see them treated more as miniature adults,” said Florida A&M University law professor Leroy Pernell. The former public defender calls the high rate of juvenile arrests a systemic issue that is linked to disparate approaches to discipline of minorities versus non minorities in a state with one of the nation’s highest numbers of minorities in prison.

Pernell said that pipeline to prison starts in the classroom where discipline is based on bringing in school resource officers.

“The problem is how are we responding and educating our children as opposed to fearing them and reacting with penal measures,” he said.

Though juvenile arrests in Orange County are high, they have gone down in the past year. Kathy Marsh, spokeswoman for the school district, said that is due to a restorative justice program that encourages conflict resolution in all of the county’s middle and high schools. That program started in 2014.

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About Renata Sago

Renata Sago