Straight outta KHS

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency shows a steady decrease in crime between 1980 and 2012. The overall juvenile arrest rate in 2012 was 38 percent lower than in 1980. In 2010, 394 million arrests were made for people between the ages of 10 and 18. In 2010, juvenile arrests still made up 14 percent of the overall arrests in the United States, according to the National Center for Children in Poverty.

Throughout the past three years, KHS has received 1,075 calls for police service. The crime rate for KHS students has remained constant from 2012 to 2015 as well. The same types of crimes have been committed every year.

According to ABC News, experts link teen crime rates to an underdeveloped teenage brain. In 2005 for this reason, the death penalty was outlawed for crimes committed before the age of 18. The article states that in recent years, brain scans have given “biological backing” to teen behavior. The frontal lobes of the brain control decision making abilities and impulse control. The frontal lobes do not mature until the age of 25, providing reason for teens to commit crimes.

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The time I stole

During Christmas break of last year, John* and his friends had a competition to see who could safely steal the most items with the highest value, he said. John stole a Black Diamond USB charger, which cost around $120. John said this was a successful strategy because he went for a smaller item of a higher value.

“It sort of became like a sport eventually, which I know is kind of crazy to say, but that was the point,” he said. “There were specific things we would steal, because we knew they would rack up more points.”

The sport continued after their trip to the sporting goods store. The group continued different stores such as Walgreens, stealing less valuable items just for fun, generally things between 30 and $60. The fun ended when one of his friends decided to continue the theft, going out on his own to the same sporting goods store.

“Once someone got caught, I think it just kind of scared everyone into not doing it again.”

An employee spotted him putting a phone case in his pocket, but did not act until he saw him go out to his car. The employee saw his license plate, and reported it to the police. When he arrived at home, the police were waiting. The store pressed no charges. However, another friend was put on probation as a punishment from his parents. The probation will not end until November; if he is caught committing a crime before that time he will be arrested. No one else was caught, but all parents were informed. They have not stolen since.

“The funny thing is that we’re all, I don’t want to say ‘good kids’, but none of us have really done any crazy stuff before,” John said. “Once someone got caught, I think it just kind of scared everyone into not doing it again.”

John faced no legal punishment, but he had to show his parents everything he stole, and earn all the money back to pay for what he took. He was grounded until summer. He also had to personally return all items to the store owners and pay them back for it. He said all the store owners were very kind, and appreciated that he brought back the items and apologized.

“I think they appreciate it when someone confesses and brings it back and repays them, even though it doesn’t make it okay,” John said. “It doesn’t right the wrong, but I still think it was a good choice [to bring the items back].”

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He said he did not feel that bad about what he did to the stores and their owners because he was just trying to have fun. He never thought of it as doing something that would negatively affect someone else, and he knows he did not steal anything valuable enough to make an impact on their livelihood.

“Whenever I did it, it was more just for the thrill of trying not to get caught,” John said. “It felt more like an activity I was doing with my friends rather than a crime.”

Still, he has not continued to steal, and he does not think he will again. He said he does not want to trouble his parents anymore, and the fun is not worth the consequences.

“If I do get caught ever, I know it would really frustrate my parents and I’ve been at ends with my parents for a while,” John said. “I don’t want to frustrate them anymore. I want to make it easy for them.”

John is one of the 6.75 million juvenile shoplifters in the United States according to the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention.

*Name has been changed.