Rapid City schools, law enforcement notice rise in serious juvenile offenses

RAPID CITY, S.D. – Our state’s law enforcement is noticing a trend among teens and it’s one they want to see reversed.

The South Dakota Fraternal Order of Police expressed concern over the state’s increase in serious juvenile crime in a statement last week. While the state look at reform just a few years ago, crime statistics since then still reflect a growing problem.

“We’re talking about kids that are 13, 14 years old that are wreaking havoc in the city as some people know,” said Tim Doyle, vice president of the SD FOP.

Teens have been making headlines in the local area over recent months, and not always in a good way. From shots fired calls to stolen vehicles, and BB guns in school, the instances continue to occur.

As the state legislative session looms, the SD FOP wants to bring their concerns over juvenile crime to the table.

“It’s not a spike in overall crime that you’re really going to see, it’s the more serious stuff,” said Doyle. “I’m talking about stolen cars, pursuits, firearms, and assaults.”

The most notable jumps, simple assault numbers nearly doubling and weapons violations nearly tripling in a five-year period.

Just four years ago, South Dakota’s Senate Bill 73 was passed with the goal of juvenile justice reform and jail diversion. But now, Doyle says higher level offenders are slipping through the cracks and now is the time to sit back down and get ahead of the problem by reviewing the previous legislation.

“The key is having kids in school, getting their education,” said Doyle. “They’re going to be a lot less likely to deal with law enforcement.”

While the state does not have the data to back up the connection between education and incarceration, Doyle says they are absolutely connected and urges the state to conduct a study.

According to Dr. Matthew Seebaum, the Asst. Superintendent of education services in Rapid City Area Schools, overall conduct confrontations are down due to school-wide initiatives. On the contrary, serious offenses are still being committed at a higher rate and he says, by a younger crowd.

This year, Seebaum says the district has seen 10 cases of a student bringing a weapon into a school, compared to just two last year.

He says the school district’s “hands are tied” when students commit more serious offenses where law enforcement gets involved which removes the educational ties through suspensions or incarceration.

“There’s an element among our youth that they’re committing more crime and they don’t have a lot of conscience behind it and that’s troublesome,” said Seebaum.

Law enforcement and school officials are asking the state to re-evaluate past legislation and introduce short and long-term fixes.

“For us, it would be initiatives to look at the juvenile systems in the state, expand capacity of courts to handle juveniles, capacity of community agencies,” said Seebaum.

To ultimately create a system that intervenes sooner and more effectively.

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