Key Findings 2019-20

Key Finding # 1: Some Florida law enforcement leaders are hurting efforts to control the spread of the coronavirus as their agencies continue to make arrests for first-time common youth misbehavior during a pandemic.

Jail areas are indoor spaces that are among the most dangerous for contracting and spreading the coronavirus, with public health experts calling them “petri dishes.” Yet, some Florida officials are choosing not to change their practice of arresting children for first-time common youth misbehavior during the pandemic, which forces kids into potentially contagious jail areas. From April through October, more than 2,000 children in Florida were arrested for first-time minor offenses, shuffling them into the pandemic hot spots and then back out to their families, friends and communities. This practice is in stark contrast to other Florida law enforcement leaders who have policies to utilize juvenile prearrest diversion civil citations instead of making arrests for first-time common youth misbehavior. Prearrest diversions have lower recidivism rates, better youth outcomes and taxpayer savings when compared to arrests. From April through October, while COVID-19 was killing thousands of Floridians, Hillsborough County arrested 135 kids for first-time minor offenses, Broward arrested 102, Brevard 98, Orange 92, Lee 80 and Duval 60. In comparison, Pinellas County arrested only four children – keeping in mind that there are rare and exceptional circumstances that justify such an arrest.

Key Finding # 2: Three Florida circuits – Nine, Thirteen and Twenty -- have multiple law enforcement agencies that rank in the state’s top 12 agencies with the most arrests for first-time common youth misbehavior.

Circuit Nine had three law enforcement agencies: Orange County Sheriff’s Office (3rd in state), Osceola County Sheriff’s Office (4th), and Orlando Police Department (11th).

Circuit Thirteen had two agencies: Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (1st), and Tampa Police Department (12th).

Circuit Twenty had two agencies: Lee County Sheriff’s Office (6th), and Collier County Sheriff’s Office (7th).

Florida counties with highest number of arrests for first-time minor acts 2019-20

1. Hillsborough County 397 2. Orange County 376 3. Broward County 276 4. Osceola County 266 5. Brevard County 251 6. Lee County 230 7. Palm Beach County 196 8. Escambia County 187 9. Volusia County 175 10. Lake County 174 11. Polk County 125 12. Collier County 117 13. Santa Rosa County 114 14. Marion County 111 15. Duval County 108 16. Seminole County 106 Compare to Florida's best-performing counties: Pinellas County 8, Miami-Dade 27.

Key Finding # 3: Many elected officials and law enforcement leaders continue to ignore the data supporting prearrest diversions.

Many elected officials and law enforcement leaders insist we follow the science and data regarding the dangers of COVID-19. Some officials have threatened fines and revocations of business licenses for those unwilling to abide by government restrictions related to the coronavirus.

But, these officials ignore the data that for years has shown that juvenile prearrest diversion civil citations, when compared to arrests, reduce recidivism, improve youth outcomes and save taxpayers money. For an overview of the data supporting Florida's prearrest diversion civil citations, visit

Key Finding # 4: The coronavirus crisis has led to fewer Florida children being arrested for minor offenses in 2019-20.

The coronavirus crisis led to a significant drop in the number of arrests in Florida for common youth misbehavior in FY 2019-20, with 1,321 fewer children arrested compared to last fiscal year. There were 6,190 arrests in 2018-19 and 4,869 arrests in 2019-20. The months of April-June, the inception of COVID-19, were largely responsible for the decrease.

Key Finding # 5: Pinellas and Miami-Dade counties continue to be the gold standard in Florida for using prearrest diversion civil citations as an alternative to arrests.

Pinellas and Miami-Dade Counties continue to be the state’s top performers in using prearrest diversion civil citations. During FY 2019-20, Pinellas County had an arrest rate for first-time common youth misbehavior of only 1% that included eight arrests; and Miami-Dade had an arrest rate of only 4% that included 27 arrests. Compare this to their neighbors: Hillsborough County had an arrest rate for first-time common youth misbehavior of 53% and arrested nearly 400 children; Broward had an arrest rate of 41% and arrested nearly 300 kids. Pinellas and Miami-Dade counties continue to be the gold standard of how to handle common youth misbehavior.

Data from Florida Department of Juvenile Justice dashboard:

4 leaders in Orange, Hillsborough counties