Recommendation 1: The Florida Legislature should closely watch next year’s statewide utilization rate and be ready to act if underperformance continues.
The statewide utilization rate for first-time common youth misbehavior plateaued at 62% in 2018-19, only up one percentage point from the previous year. Previous year-over-year increases ranged from 5 percentage points to 8 percentage points.
Lower utilization rates of 70% or below increase the chances for:
- Racial disparity in handling common youth misbehavior
- Justice by geography where youth are treated differently – some arrested and some issued prearrest diversions – for the same offenses.
- Arrests of youth children, including those ages 11 and younger
If the statewide utilization rate does not increase significantly next year, the legislature will need to take another look at measures to incentivize and/or mandate aspects of prearrest diversions, such as providing funding to improve county programs or requiring juvenile civil citations for certain offenses and ages.
Too many children are being arrested for common youth misbehavior that in previous days resulted in a trip to the principal's office or a call to parents.
Recommendation 2: The Florida Legislature should set very high requirements for arrests of preteens for first-time common youth misbehavior.
Currently, Florida law enforcement officers who make arrests for common youth misbehavior, instead of issuing civil citations, are required to provide reasons in writing for the arrests. Many law enforcement agencies also add another set-of-eyes by requiring supervisory approval for the arrest.
However, to arrest a preteen for first-time common youth misbehavior the State of Florida should have higher requirements. These are not felonies. And most agencies are able to address 11-year-old misbehavior without making an arrest.
It’s not unreasonable to ask the Florida Legislature to mandate higher requirements for arresting preteen children for minor violations instead of issuing a juvenile civil citation (provided eligible.)
The school-to-prison pipeline should not be able to start with common youth misbehavior by an 11-year-old.
Recommendation 3: Orange-Osceola Chief Judge Frederick Lauten should reconvene stakeholders to adopt new policies and approaches that will (finally) reduce arrests for common youth misbehavior.
In 2017, Orange-Osceola Chief Judge Frederick Lauten called for a summit of law enforcement agencies to increase the use of prearrest diversions by discussing best practices and policy improvements. The data shows the summit was a failure at making gains, while other issues like arresting young children emerged but are yet to be addressed.
Prior to the summit in 2016-17, Orange County arrested 51% of youth caught committing first-time common youth misbehavior. Two years later in 2018-19 the county’s arrest rate rose to 55% -- meaning the county’s arrest rate went up after a summit with the sole purpose to drive down arrests. (By comparison, Pinellas County’s arrest rate in 2018-19 was 3%.)
Orange County’s Sheriff’s Office ranked second among law enforcement agencies in the state for number of arrests in 2018-19.
Orange County Sheriff’s Office arrested children 12-year-old and younger. The agency arrested three children ages 11 and under and 19 12-year-olds.
Prior to the summit in 2016-17, Osceola County arrested 76% of youth caught committing first-time common youth misbehavior. The year following the summit the county’s arrest rate did not change, remaining at 76%. Two years after the summit in 2018-19, Osceola had an arrest rate of 66%. (By comparison, Pinellas County’s arrest rate in 2018-19 was 3%.)
Osceola County Sheriff’s Office ranked sixth in the state among law enforcement agencies for number of arrests. And, Osceola County Sheriff’s Office arrested eight children ages 11 and under and three 12-year-olds.
The Orange-Osceola summit in 2017 to decrease arrests for common youth misbehavior was a failure -- two years later Orange County's arrest rate actually increased.
Recommendation 4: Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren should engage law enforcement and lead new policies that will (finally) reduce arrests for common youth misbehavior.
In July 2017 Hillsborough County adopted a new memorandum of understanding, led by State Attorney Andrew Warren and agreed to by all law enforcement agencies, to expand its use of civil citations. The data shows the memorandum of understanding has accomplished virtually nothing, while the issue of arresting young children has arisen and continue to go unaddressed.
- Prior to the memorandum of understanding in 2016-17, Hillsborough County arrested 52% of youth caught committing first-time common youth misbehavior. The county’s arrest rate dipped to 44% for each of the following two years - a small move in the right direction. (By comparison, Pinellas County’s arrest rate in 2018-19 was 3%.)
- Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office ranked first in the state among law enforcement agencies for arrests for common youth misbehavior in 2018-19.
- Tampa Police Department ranked 10th in the state among agencies for arrests for common youth misbehavior in 2018-19.
- Hillsborough Sheriff’s Office arrested 13 children ages 11 and under and 16 12-year-olds in 2018-19.
- Tampa Police Department arrested three children ages 11 and under and seven 12-year-olds in 2018-19.
Hillsborough County's 2017 memorandum of understanding to expand prearrest diversion has accomplished virtually nothing -- the county's arrest rate for first-time common youth misbehavior remains among the worst in the state.