Youth crime rates in Grand Forks remain similar in recent years
The total number of delinquent referrals from Grand Forks in 2021 was 427 compared to 419 referrals in 2020. Also, the total number of Child in Need of Services referrals was 184, compared to a total of 218 referrals in 2020
GRAND FORKS – The number of juveniles being referred to the North Dakota Juvenile Courts last year for delinquent offenses in Grand Forks has stayed around the same as in 2020, while Child in Need of Services (CHINS) offenses have trended downward.
The total number of delinquent referrals from Grand Forks in 2021 was 427, compared to 419 in 2020. The total number of CHINS referrals was 184, down from 218 the previous year.
Referral types for CHINS include ungovernable behavior, runaways, truancy and possession of tobacco under the age of 14. The referral types for delinquency are much broader — some include disorderly conduct, simple assault, possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia and criminal mischief.
The most common offenses for CHINS in Grand Forks last year were runaways (77), truancy (44) and ungovernable behavior (40). The most common delinquent offenses were disorderly conduct (118), possession of controlled substance/possession of drug paraphernalia (52), simple assault (40), theft of property/shoplifting (28), criminal mischief/vandalism (25) and minor in possession/ consumption of alcohol (17).
In East Grand Forks, the total number juvenile offenses including both CHINS and delinquent offenses, was slightly down last year at 34 as reported by the East Grand Forks Police Department. in 2020 the total number of offenses was 43.
The most common offense last year was possession of drugs with a total of eight offenses. Possession of drugs and runaways were both the most common offenses in 2020 as both had a total of nine offenses.
On a state level, the total number of delinquent referrals in North Dakota last year was 4,985, 1,258 more than 2020, while the total number of CHINS referrals was 2,486, down from 2,613 in 2020 according to the 2021 North Dakota Juvenile Court annual report.
Shawn Peterson, the director of Juvenile Court Services for the northeast part of the state, said the total number of referrals for CHINS and delinquent offenses is an “ebb and flow” each year as most of the trends in the state tend to follow national trends.
The North Dakota Juvenile Courts system has several programs for minors. The services utilize research and evidence-based programming, as those models are proven more effective, something that is important not only for helping minors in the system but also when it comes to providing services on a tight budget.
“Because our dollars for juvenile court services programming are limited, we want to make sure that we’re using the best programming that we can,” Peterson said.
A risk and needs analysis is administered to see what specific program would work best for each minor.
“For instance, a kid gets caught drinking, that’s probably going to be an alcohol/drug education class for the most part,” Peterson said.
But, he said, when a child comes into the system for a charge like simple assault, for example, it's important to assess any underlying issues, such as mental health concerns, drugs or alcohol, he said.
"Our risk and needs assessment helps us match up the programming that should work best to reduce that kid’s likelihood of re-offending,” Peterson said.
Peterson said Restorative Justice is a big part of the courts programming, since it teaches minors how their actions affect others. Some of the other programming includes victim empathy classes or accountability conferences, where offenders and victims can sit down together and go through a process.
Along with the programming available through the Juvenile Courts, Peterson said minors also can be referred to seek services available in the community, such as counseling.
In Grand Forks, YouthWorks provides programs such as Day Report, an after-school supervision program where minors report in and receive help with schoolwork. Youthworks also provides a Divert Program, which offers early intervention to minors entering the juvenile court system due to status offense charges. The program helps minors and their families address the issues that have led to law enforcement involvement in order to prevent further advancement into the Juvenile Courts system.
Peterson said programs are continuously monitored for effectiveness.
“We want to be able to get our data systems to that point where we can analyze every program in-depth,” Peterson said. “We’ve certainly done research on programming that we think is effective and we’re going to continue to monitor that to make sure our programming is effective.”
The Juvenile Courts will be seeing some major changes this year as HB 1035, a bill that emerged in the last North Dakota legislative session, directed that beginning Aug. 1, CHINS referrals will be handled through Human Service Zones, formally Social Services, instead of the Juvenile Courts.
Peterson said his understanding of the change is that referrals for CHINS are much more limited compared to delinquent referrals. Peterson said minors with CHINS referrals also tend to be low on the risk and needs analysis, meaning the services they’re referred to tend to be outside of the Juvenile Courts.
“You want to be able to have those kids and families access services without having to go into the criminal justice system,” Peterson said.
To view the full 2021North Dakota Juvenile Court annual report, go to https://www.ndcourts.gov/Media/Default/Trial%20Courts/Juvenile%20Court/juvenile-court-annual-report-2021.pdf