An Associated Press review of national statistics found that the courts are seeing a number of sex offence cases involving the young. There is a dramatic rise in cases by these Juvenile offenders.
Some psychologists blame the increase in numbers 40 percent over two decades on a society saturated with sex and violence and the fact that many of the accused were themselves victims of adult sexual predators. Others say there aren't more children committing such crimes, simply more awareness, better reporting and a general hysteria about sex offenders.
I don't think it's appropriate to suggest we have whole schools full of sexual predators ... but we're seeing more of it and more sexually aggressive acts," said Scott Poland, past president of the National Association of School Psychologists. "How do these kids even know about this? It's permeated throughout our society."
Twenty-year-old Allen Crispin of Butler County will be put behind bars indefinitely because he admitted thinking about committing additional sex crimes.
Butler County Judge Thomas Doerr yesterday ordered him moved from the Youth Development Center in New Castle to the Liberty Behavioral Health unit of Torrance State Mental Hospital, in Indiana County, where he will remain until he is no longer deemed a threat. He'll be re-evaluated in a year.
Jim Anderson, director of the Pennsylvania Juvenile Judges Commission in Harrisburg, said the law is aimed at protecting the community from the most serious juvenile sex offenders.
Of 100 children who engage in sexual activities with other children in situations that involve some pressure or coercion, one or two might be charged.
If you label the kids who get caught deviants, then you are labeling a lot who don't get caught as well, said Dr. David Kolko, director of the collaborative program for juvenile sexual offenders run by the Allegheny County juvenile probation office and Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic.
The very fact that child offenders are that -- children -- means that they are still developing, still capable of change, Kolko said. They are often amenable to programs that steer them in the right direction.
Franklin Zimring, an expert on juvenile justice who is a professor at the Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California, Berkeley argues for a categorization of juvenile offenders into three groups. Of the 15,000 children and adolescents younger than 18 arrested for sex crimes each year, a small number are what he calls "sexual status offenders" -- teens involved in consensual sex whose behavior is unlawful because their partners are underage. Perhaps 1 percent to 4 percent is repeat offenders. And the rest -- somewhere between 70 percent and 95 percent, he said -- are first offenders involved in abusive conduct.
Robert Prentky, a psychologist and nationally renowned expert on sex offenders in Bridgewater, Massachusetts, thinks the statistics are misleading.
"There aren't more kids, there are more laws," he said. "We now have fairly draconian laws with very harsh sanctions that apply to juveniles."
The number of children under 18 accused of forcible rape, violent and nonviolent sex offenses rose from 24,100 in 1985 to 33,800 in 2004, the AP's analysis found. Violent offenses include attempted rape and sexual assault, while nonviolent offenses including fondling, statutory rape and prostitution.