State Attorney launches program to cut down juvenile arrests in Orange County

By Bailey Myers, Reporter
Last Updated: Wednesday, December 06, 2017, 9:32 PM EST

Orange and Osceola County have some of the highest rates of juvenile arrests in the State. Now local agencies are teaming up to change that — by cutting teens some slack.

  • Local agencies trying to change juvenile arrest rates in Orlando-area
  • Local law enforcement increasing citations, cutting down on arrests
  • League of Women Voters said this is a just a first step

State Attorney Aramis Ayala said on Wednesday that she has launched a program in Orange County called "Project No-No," which sifts through juvenile arrest records and citations to decide which ones should be put on their permanent records.

“While it is our solemn goal to protect our community against violent offenders, it is also important to prevent juveniles, who do not belong in the criminal justice system, from becoming a part of it,” said Ayala.

Since starting Project No-No in April, her team at the State Attorney’s office has sifted through every juvenile justice case, both big and small, and found 36 percent of them don’t warrant a criminal juvenile record.

“With criminal citations we’ve seen juveniles avoid criminal court records based on mistakes of an undeveloped youth’s mind,” Ayala said.

Over the past two years local law enforcement increased the number of juvenile citations, cutting down on arrests.

They found young people, who are not violent or gang affiliated, tend to respond better to counseling or community service rather than jail time.

“Back (in) 2003 on an average day, the number of juveniles who would’ve been incarcerated in Orange County Jail would’ve been over 100. Today it’s just twelve,” said Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demmings.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, the number of arrests in 2016 reduced greatly because the number of citations increased to 724. Orlando Police say their use of juvenile citations is up 200 percent over what it was just a few years ago.

Still, the League of Women Voters Co-President Carol Davis, who organized a discussion today, said it’s just a first step.

“We wait sometimes too late to help children. Civil Citations is one means to keeping kids out of jail,” said Davis.

One of the Key Judges in this effort to reduce juvenile arrests, Chief Judge Frederick Lauten, is hosting an event in February 2018 where law enforcement agencies will discuss best practices in reducing arrests for kids.