Youth Success Week runs through April 25
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04/20/09 Mark Anderson
WMNF Drive-Time News Monday | Listen to this entire show:

Florida’s Secretary of Juvenile Justice, Frank Peterson Jr., hosted a press conference today at the University Area Community Center in Tampa. The event was the kickoff for the 2009 Youth Success Week, which runs from April 19-25, and is focused on cutting juvenile crime across the state.

Youth Success Week’s theme is “part of the community, part of the solution,“ highlighting the Department’s role in reducing juvenile crime and delinquency through emphasis on prevention, diversion, and intervention efforts, in cooperation with local communities: Secretary Peterson described the program.

Peterson noted that overall juvenile delinquency is trending downward. Department of Juvenile Justice statistics show a 15 percent overall delinquency reduction from 2008 to 2008, despite a 7 percent population gain in 10 to 17 year olds.

The agency assists more than 150,000 at-risk juveniles statewide by providing prevention, detention, probation and residential detention services. Despite the overall reduction in crime and delinquency, violent juvenile crime has soared, Peterson noted.

Two of the most disturbing statistics are the juvenile murder and manslaughter and armed robbery rates. Murder and Manslaughter rates rose 55 percent from 2004 to 2008, while the armed robbery rate rose 103 percent for the same period, indicating a strong trend of increasing violent crime. Peterson discussed using prevention as a way of combating juvenile crime.

Juvenile Justice currently spends just under 10 percent of its $624 million budget on prevention programs. But the state is facing significant budget gaps that may mean budget cuts for the agency. Ultimately the state Legislature will make the final budget decisions.

Peterson noted that he hoped to have the agency’s budget finalized within the next couple of weeks, but that Youth Success Week will be held no matter what happens with the budget.

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