Juvenile offenders on the decline?

TRI-CITIES - Kids are staying out of trouble more often here in the Tri-Cities.
KEPR learned fewer juveniles are being charges with crimes.
There's been a drop since five years ago for both felonies and misdemeanors. We spoke with probation officials to find out if the numbers actually mean there's less crime on the streets.

Former juvenile convicts will tell you -- jail isn't any fun.

"You just sit in a cell - you know - you just do nothing," said Peter.

We'll call this ex-con Peter.He learned his lesson. After serving time on probation and in juvenile hall, Peter says he's cleaned up.

"I mean, I learned my lesson - don't get in trouble anymore," added Peter.

That doesn't mean his friends don't.

"Just about every one of my friends is on probation or in some kind of trouble." said Peter.

It's why Peter was surprised to learn fewer cases were filed for juvenile offenders in Benton and Franklin Counties recently. Go back five years -- and prosecutors were dealing with more than 1300 cases involving crimes by kids in Benton and Franklin counties.

Fast forward to last year, when that number had dropped by more than 20-percent.

Probation officials not only congratulate the juvenile court. They tell KEPR partnerships with law enforcement, the prosecutors' offices and schools contribute to the decreasing trend.

"It's a collaborative effort. You know, I think it would be a little self-serving to think it was just the juvenile court," said Probation Manager David Wheeler.

The juvenile justice center has also faced overcrowding issues. It's caused some kids to get released early or go back and forth from jail.

"Whether or not that kids being released early - is at higher risk or that puts him at more risk to commit a crime - I think it would be too premature to say," explained Wheeler.

Probation managers hope kids don't view juvie as a joke -- and cause trouble in the future.

"If you're going to go to juvie once - just do your whole thing once," said Peter.

In the meanwhile, officials take the decrease as good news. And hope any overcrowding is managed responsibly.

The Juvenile Justice Center also says programs like Aggression Replacement Training and the Drug Court help reduce reoffenses.