Teens and Crime In Arlington: How Are They Connected?

Teens and Crime In Arlington: How Are They Connected?

Breaking into cars, shoplifting, vandalism: There is no lack of crime in Arlington. What surprises people most is the amount of crime committed by juveniles.

If you are a North Arlington resident, you have probably seen the waves of Yorktown high schoolers and Williamsburg middle schoolers at Lee-Harrison shopping center on a Friday. Among these masses, there are juveniles who are shoplifting at stores.

“I don’t think that people will just call in juvenile crime in general. I think people are calling in crimes that they feel are important to them,” Deputy Chief Wayne Vincent of the Arlington County Police Department said.

Shoplifting cases have seen a decrease within the Arlington community. In Westover, residents have sent in complaints about shoplifting and disruptive Swanson students. In an attempt to stop kids from stealing, shop owners installed security cameras.

Jennifer Eubank, an Arlington resident who lives in Westover, has reported on Nextdoor that as students have started to notice these cameras, they have decided to move across the street to residential areas. These juveniles cause disturbances including loitering and vandalism of the laundry rooms within these complexes. Residents report these issues to the police and ask for cameras and locks.

Another crime that is an issue in Arlington is underage drinking and possession of a controlled substance. These drugs are a prevalent issue among high schoolers which can lead to other crimes occurring including driving under the influence. When someone is driving under the influence, they put not only the lives of themselves in danger, but also the lives of others.

“I believe that every kid deserves a second chance. I think it depends on what the victim wants. If you are talking about a crime where there is a victim, regardless of the kind of victim, I think they have a lot to say as to what should happen,” Vincent said.

Sometimes, a crime does not involve a victim, so the process looks different.

“They are young and people make mistakes. It becomes a question of society or Arlington: Are we looking to divert kids when they make a mistake, or are you just looking to arrest them? I would think that the county has always been one to believe that you can divert that and give a child a second chance,” Vincent said.

In Arlington County, a system called Second Chance is used for juveniles who are caught drinking or are in possession of an illegal substance. Second Chance is a two-to-three-day program outside school that focuses on educating people on the harmful effects of these items. It gives juveniles a chance to stop using these drugs without jail time.

With the removal of the School Resource Officers (SROs), the reporting of crime within school had to change and adjust.

“In some cases, long-term SROs would build relationships with kids. I think the challenge for us now is ensuring that we continue to engage our kids and build lasting and trusting relationships. We had the ability to understand, have empathy and give advice kids were looking for,” Vincent said.

Yorktown pushes for a different approach when it comes to dealing with the issues that the SROs would normally take care of.

“We have a great security team now that has done a great job this year of working with our administrative team, our students, and keeping our school safe. They can do things the police can’t, because the police work for the county and [our security team] is working in the school. We use the APS framework, the code of conduct, to determine school consequences,” Principal Kevin Clark said.

For more severe incidents including assault or drug distribution, further steps are taken to ensure the safety of everyone in the building.

“There are things that we are required to work with the police on and we do that. We have a good relationship with the police,” Clark said.

A push toward making Arlington County safer for everyone through community outreach, school policies and police engagement has not gone unnoticed. As juvenile crime continues in schools and in the community, new steps have and will be taken and further change will hopefully be soon to come.

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About the Contributor
Olivia Pang, Reporter
Olivia Pang is reporting for the first time as a sophomore. She has previously worked on the yearbook at Williamsburg Middle School. She enjoys playing soccer in her free time as well as traveling the world with her family. Olivia has been writing for many years and is looking forward to continuing for The Sentry.

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