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As a result of the curfew issue that has been a concern of many over the past month or so, I have heard from an increasing number of people about other concerns for juvenile delinquency, inappropriate behavior by youth, and adult crime here in Cambridge. What I hear are beliefs that there is an increase in crime and delinquency as well as the apparent lack of punishment or consequences for those behaviors.
The last annual report from the Cambridge Police Department can be found at https://www.choosecambridge.com/DocumentCenter/View/1852/2019-Annual-Reportdoc?bidId=. While complete, it is not helpful to the concerns expressed to me, as it is out of date.
I have raised this issue with the police chief. He is aware that up to date information needs to be provided to the community not only about crime here but also about types of crime, arrests, and successful prosecutions. As you can see from the above report there is no breakout between adult crime and juvenile delinquency.
In addition, with the new curfew ordinance, additional information should be collected about what the police are seeing with regard to curfew violations, where they are seeing them, and what are they doing in response to them. While I suspect that the curfew numbers during the winter will be low, when you see any reports, don’t think that things are headed in the right direction. Recall, rather, that it is cold now, and kids are not necessarily eager to be hanging outdoors during cold weather.
What I have received from the CPD and share below is not a full record that can provide great detail about trends in crime up or down over a period of years. What the chief hopes to begin to provide with the help of the city IT Department is more detail and more frequent reporting on adult crime and juvenile delinquency that will help the police department and the community have better ideas of where resources need to be placed.
I am reminded of a time in Alexandria when I was receiving many complaints about how much delinquency was occurring in one part of the city. As our court delinquency caseload was down, I wondered what was going on about which I was not aware.
People in that part of town were sure that it was youth that were the problem. I asked our police chief to give me a report of complaints and arrests in the section of the city at issue for a six-month period of time.
He did. It turned out that during that period of time, there were 106 crimes reported to the police department that resulted in arrests of 100 adults and 6 juveniles. This indicated to me that a part of Alexandria that was being impacted by crime needed to be provided more information to understand where the real concerns needed to be.
In Cambridge, citizens are reasonably concerned about the number of murders that have taken place in recent years and the drug crime that is a significant problem here. With both of these types of crime, the CPD, county sheriff, and Maryland State Police are collaborating in efforts to prevent these crimes and also to catch those that have perpetrated them.
In addition, with the community policing effort that is being undertaken here in the city, the CPD is providing information to the community about what is happening in the way of crime and arrests made. That information sharing is more prevalent than in the past and, as a result, the community may believe that crime has increased. Well, some of it certainly has. But the numbers for 2021 and 2022 show a different story in some areas.
Calls for Service 27,827 25,873
Adults 627 506
Juveniles 207 145
Homicides 4 7
Rape 8 3
Robbery 34 17
Agg. Assault 101 91
Burglary 90 91
Theft 421 464
Motor Vehicle Theft 37 31
The above are merely the broad numbers that have been made available to me. While all of the numbers are concerning, many of them have gone down this past year.
The ones that have not are homicides, burglaries, and thefts. I do not have a breakdown of the thefts so plan to ask some more questions about those numbers.
There are some other interesting numbers such as fraud that also need more research and explanation, all of which I anticipate will be forthcoming in the next months with an enhanced effort by CPD to keep the community more informed about what they are doing.
One issue that may have some relevance here is the change in the Maryland law regarding juveniles that went into effect this past June. Children under 13 who may have committed a delinquent offense that is not a crime of violence are to be provided services and consequences outside of going to court, so this may have impacted the juvenile numbers for 2022.
Hopefully, as with the curfew data, the CPD will still record the cases of juveniles under 13 to see what impact in the years to come service/program interventions with them and their families will have on the delinquency caseload for children 13 and older.
Some data that I have from the Department of Juvenile Services (DJS) that is attached look at the Dorchester County juvenile caseload. I do not have the breakdown of those cases that have occurred in the City of Cambridge, Hurlock, or elsewhere in the county.
They show, however, that the DJS caseload and referrals to the courts may not be a high as people may think. They also show much greater detail in how many cases actually are diverted from court for services, which is one aim of Juvenile Services, how many are dismissed, and how many cases are serious enough to go to court.
It may take some time to review the attached, but it can give you a more clear picture of what is happening here in Dorchester County not just Cambridge.
Does this mean that all is well here in Cambridge. It does not.
It also does not mean that nothing is being done. It means that prevention and early intervention to prevent truancy and delinquency need to be part of any solution.
That means we need to find other ways such as through the work of nonprofit organizations, state agencies, and youth programming to find solutions to the issues that are facing the children of Cambridge and Dorchester County. We can all be part of those solutions by volunteering, supporting youth groups and programs, and helping our neighbors. Simply relying on the police and the courts to solve the problems is not the answer.
Steve Rideout is mayor of Cambridge.