Fewer juveniles are going deep into the jail system and pretrial diversion programs may be the root of that.
According to state Department of Juvenile Justice data, juvenile arrests are down more than 3 percent in Monroe County, with 219 arrests for fiscal year 2014-15, which ran from July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2015, compared to 226 arrests in fiscal year 2013-14. That includes felonies and misdemeanors.
"Our numbers have been down. A lot of it has to do with the diversion programs," said Vincent Vurro, superintendent of the Monroe Juvenile Detention Center on Stock Island.
Since 2010, the Department of Juvenile Justice has contracted with the Monroe County Sheriff's Office on juvenile diversion programs. The program allows officers to issue minors civil citations when called for rather than arresting them. Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Becky Herrin said what happens after is on a case-by-case basis, including whether the juvenile's parents pay restitution for any damage or theft, or the youth serves community service.
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Other sanctions could include adhering to a curfew, writing a letter of apology or writing an essay on why what they did was wrong.
Herrin said the Sheriff's Office starting reorganizing the program and pushing it countywide when the Department of Juvenile Justice started funding it in 2010, leading to more citations.
The Sheriff's Office issued 72 juvenile citations in 2014, 20 more than the 52 citations issued so far this year.
Statewide, juvenile arrests are down significantly. There were 75,066 arrests for fiscal year 2014-15, more than 4 percent less than the 78,330 arrests in fiscal year 2013-14.
Overall, major crimes in the Florida Keys dropped by nearly 7 percent in 2014, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
The seven types of major crimes — murder, forcible rape, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and vehicle theft — logged by the state agency dipped from 3,374 in 2013 to 3,140 in all of Monroe County in 2014.