Youth Justice Advocates Respond to Rising Concerns on Crime in LA

Published 6:36 am Tuesday, January 24, 2023

In response to ongoing reports concerning incidents of crime among youth across Louisiana, Antonio Travis, Youth Organizer at Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children (FFLIC) issued the following statement:

“Youth can be prone to making mistakes, and some may make more harmful ones than others. We, too, have borne witness to the impacts of recent crime among youth on our communities. But the recent public discourse surrounding Louisiana’s children mirrors trends of the 1990s, when a “super-predator” myth resulted in the arrests of untold numbers of innocent youth of color. Instead of meeting this challenging moment with more punitive measures, we implore our elected officials to treat these children with compassion and understanding.

Moreover, it is frustrating to see the continued sensationalization of individual incidents and crimes committed by youth without the context of an overall downward trend. The share of crimes in the U.S. committed by youth has fallen by more than half over the past two decades, and the most recent Department of Justice data (2020) shows that the percentage continued to fall for all major offense categories, even in the pandemic.

Any conversation around crime in Louisiana must first acknowledge the conditions that breed it – including poverty and lack of access to education and mental health services, as outlined in our 3 Point Platform. The reality is that children and families in our state are not getting the supports and services they need to thrive, and are being blamed for the failures system leaders are responsible for. One in every four children in the state lives in poverty, and we finish last in education and child wellbeing. Furthermore, as a result of the pandemic, youth have been especially vulnerable because of the disruption of their normalized routines of school, friends and social engagement outside of the home. A temporary rise in youth crime would not be surprising given the severe trauma young people have experienced during the last few years and the lack of programs to respond to their needs.

Yet, despite this reality, our leaders continue to perpetuate harmful narratives and peddle committees full of empty promises that leave the voice of youth and their families out of the conversation. We don’t need any more deflection, we need direct action – such as fully implementing Act 555 of 2004, which created the Children Youth and Planning Board and city ordinances to make sure youth have a seat at the table. By supporting youth proactively and before they get into trouble, we can prevent crime before it happens.

Now more than ever, young people need to be protected and treated as kids. We need to invest in alternatives to youth incarceration, like intensive rehabilitation, education, job training, community services, and programs, to make sure youth – who are the future of our nation – can grow up cared for and safely, in their communities. Community-based resources for youth are the most effective tactic to attain safer and stronger communities – for them and for us all.”