Youth felonies skyrocket in county

Juvenile felonies in Brown County have increased over 400 percent in just one year and are continuing to climb.
According to the Ohio Department of Youth Services, seven Brown County youths, all male, were found delinquent in FY 2015 for offenses that would have been felonies if they had been committed as an adult.
In FY 2016, that number jumped to 29, including seven females.  That one year increase is the second highest statistical jump in the state.
The numbers are even higher in FY 2017.  Brown County Juvenile Court Administrator Charles Ashmore reports that 24 juveniles were found delinquent of felony offenses in just the first six months of this year, combined with seven offenders from the last half of 2016 for a total of 31 offenders in FY 2017.
Ohio fiscal years run from July 1 to June 30, which means that FY 2017 just ended.
Looking deeper into the numbers, in FY 2015, the youngest offender was 12 and the oldest 17.  Six of the offenses were fifth degree felony level and one was third degree felony level.
In FY 2016, the youngest offender was 13 and the oldest 18.  There was one first degree felony level offense and two second degree felony level offenses along with one third degree level offense.
Six fourth degree felony level and 15 fifth degree level offenses round out the total.  Not only did the number of offenses increase dramatically from one fiscal year to another, so did the severity.
Ashmore and Brown County Probate/Juvenile Court Judge Danny Bubp recently discussed the issue with The Brown County Press.
Bubp said that one thing he is not seeing from many juvenile offenders is remorse.
“I don’t remember any kid volunteering a statement like ‘I’m sorry.’  It’s always the same three words.  I. Don’t. Know,” Bubp said.
“Why did you do this?  I don’t know. Who gave you the drugs?  I don’t know.  It’s like those words are always the answer.”
Ashmore said he blames the increase in juvenile felonies on a number of factors.
“First, there is a decay in the family structure, which we’ve seen over the past decades.  Single parent homes, parents having to work more hours and leaving children unsupervised, which leads them to having a lot of free time on their hands and then getting into trouble,” Ashmore said.
He added that much of that free time is spent on social media, sometimes with negative results.
“There is a lot of sharing that takes place on social media where kids have shared ideas about things that are not productive and it leads them into dangerous and sometimes criminal activity.”
Ashmore then turned to the one factor that continues to disrupt almost every level of modern society…illegal drugs.
“The third thing is we are seeing a major trend in drug abuse.  We are seeing a huge amount of abuse of marijuana because young people believe that it’s safe, which it’s not.  And that is leading into other hard drug use.  We’ve seen kids as young as 12 years old on heroin,” Ashmore said.
He said those issues and more add up to an increase in crime.
“All of these factors lead to kids having impaired judgement when they already don’t have the rational decision making ability of an adult, so they end up committing crimes of a very serious and adult nature,” Ashmore said.
He then gave an example.
“Most recently, we had a juvenile who broke into a house and stole two firearms.  He proceeded to a neighbors house to rob them with the firearms.  This juvenile was high on every single drug that we test for in the system.”
Ashmore had a quick answer when asked about how he felt about the idea of a 12 year old heroin addict.
“Disgusted.  Disgusted on so many different levels.  I’m disgusted that society is tolerating this type of behavior, that we don’t have something to intervene to help prop up the family structure.  Also many things that used to be societal taboos are now accepted.  And the deeper we get into this culture of permissiveness, the deeper we will get into problems that are nearly impossible to resolve,” He said.
Ashmore added that many of the young people in Judge Bubp’s court will eventually end up in front of Common Pleas Judge Scott Gusweiler.
“If you look at the trend of the individuals we are talking about with felony adjudications, the vast majority of them become adult offenders.  Well over half of them will end up in prison,” Ashmore said.
Ashmore, Bubp and Brown County Prosecuting Attorney Zac Corbin will talk more about the causes of the juvenile felony problem, the cost to Brown County residents and possible solutions in the August 3 issue of the News Democrat, on sale next week.