November 13, 1996 in Nation/World

Victims And Victimizers Study Shows Juvenile Arrests, Child Abuse Higher In Spokane

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Spokane juveniles are arrested at more than twice the statewide rate, a new study on child well-being shows.

Child abuse and neglect also is reported in Spokane far more often than elsewhere in the state.

“A lot of your kids are involved in crime and a lot of your kids are victims of abuse,” said Richard Brandon, who directed the University of Washington study made public Tuesday.

But the research also showed Spokane children fare better than average in other areas, with higher math scores and fewer teenage pregnancies.

Most startling were the city of Spokane’s juvenile crime statistics, which showed an arrest rate of 21 percent in 1994 compared with a statewide average of just more than 9 percent. Multiple arrests are included in that percentage, so it doesn’t mean one of every five city teens ends up in juvenile detention.

When all Spokane County youngsters are included, the number improves, dropping to an 11.7 percent arrest rate.

The 1994 arrest figures were the most recent available.

Brandon, who helped compile the university’s fifth-annual survey, said the many arrests should seriously concern Spokane residents.

But Jack Pearson, a Spokane police analyst, said it could mean officers are doing a great job. “I really think the stats are high over here not because we have more criminals but because we target active criminals,” he said.

“Juveniles do a large share of the crime. They’re the thieves, the vehicle prowlers, the ones who do property damage and malicious mischief, including graffiti.”

While Spokane’s rate was high, Seattle’s was slightly higher at about 22 percent. Tacoma kids fared better at 16 percent.

The study generally found the highest rates of teen pregnancy, child abuse and neglect, and juvenile crime in counties with the highest unemployment and lowest income, Brandon said.

In Spokane County, the average annual income was $23,576 last year, below the state average of $27,444.

Child abuse and neglect was reported to state social workers at a rate of 5.3 percent in 1995 in Spokane County, just below a state average of 5.8 percent.

Yet in the city of Spokane, the abuse report rate jumped to 9 percent.

“Your rate has consistently been higher than the state average,” said Brandon. “That’s 13 kids a day, 7 days a week.”

The high rates of reported abuse could well be tied in with the high juvenile arrest rate, Brandon said.

“There’s also evidence that criminal behavior that shows up in teen years starts with how kids are cared for.”

Rob Schebor, regional CPS officer in Spokane, said he expects people to be shocked.

“I don’t think the common person is aware of the level of abuse,” he said. “When I throw out the hard, cold facts, you get a lot of ‘Oh my God, I didn’t know it was that bad of a problem.”’

Part of the blame goes to the area’s high poverty level, said Mary Ann Murphy, who manages the Deaconess Regional Center for Child Abuse and Neglect.

“When people don’t have enough resources to get help early, or adequate housing or nutrition, then that puts children more at risk.”

Last year, more children died from abuse in Spokane County than have in many years, Murphy said, although she didn’t have exact figures available.

“That’s a great concern,” she said.

The study tempered the grim with some good news.

Spokane County students stood out among their peers statewide in eighth-grade math tests. They beat the national average by 8 points last year, while children throughout the state topped students nationwide by 3 points.

Teenage pregnancy rates also dropped, from 5.5 percent among girls 17 and under in 1993, to 5 percent in 1994, the study showed. That’s slightly below the state average of 5.3 percent.

Prevention efforts are paying off, Brandon said, noting that pregnancy rates improved in 19 counties.

“It’s kind of a mixed picture in Spokane,” he said. “There are a couple of good spots … but there are some very serious problems.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Graphic: Spokane child abuse

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