Youth Arrest Rates Drop

Published: Oct. 16, 2014 at 6:20 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- Our kids are getting into trouble with police less often than they were a few years ago, but despite those numbers data from the state shows Winnebago County has one of the highest juvenile arrest rates in the state.

Every day Boys and Girls Club gyms across Rockford are packed with kids.

"To me that's saving lives because if we can take one off the streets, if I’ve got 80 kids in this club at nighttime, that's 80 kids off the streets," Blackhawk Boys and Girls Club Unit Director Mike Ayers, said.

Mike Ayers has seen thousands of kids come to the Blackhawk Boys and Girls Club. He says many have seen shootings and drug deals, but the center gives kids another option.

"We try to be positive; we try to be a support system for the children. We try to make it where they come in here they can do and be whatever they want to be if they make the right choices and the right decisions," Ayers aid.

According to the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority one in 88 kids ages 10 to 16 in Winnebago County are arrested each year. In fact, nine were recently locked up for breaking curfew at Fairgrounds Valley Housing Complex on the city's west side.

"If those kids were out roaming around unsupervised at one, two, three, four in the morning, that's really unsafe for them. Things happen in the middle of the night that don't happen during the day," Deputy Chief Dave Hopkins of the Rockford Police Department, said.

Deputy Chief Hopkins says its programs like these at the Boys and Girls Club that have led to a 34 percent drop in juvenile arrests in Illinois over the last 10 years.

"Recreation is prevention. Activities, programs, all that is prevention because when they're here, they're not out there," Ayers explained.

The Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority report shows Winnebago County with one of the highest arrest rates, Stephenson County has one of the lowest in the state.