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In 2021, juvenile offenses in Tarrant County increased slightly from the previous year, but overall the number of offenses referred by police agencies to the juvenile department has decreased over the past five years. Tarrant County Juvenile Services reported 2,534 formal referrals in 2021.
In this post, Varghese Summersett juvenile defense attorney Lisa Herrick discusses the top five juvenile crimes in Tarrant County.
More than 2,500 juvenile case referrals were made to Tarrant County Juvenile Services in 2021. That’s down 27 percent from five years before. Here’s a look at the top five juvenile crimes in Tarrant County:
Felony drug offenses have steadily increased in Tarrant County since 2017. There were 104 felony drug offenses referred to juvenile authorities by police agencies in 2021. That’s nearly double from 2017 but 103 fewer than reported in 2019.
The Texas Health and Safety Code makes the manufacture, delivery, or possession with the intent to deliver Penalty Group 1 controlled substances such as cocaine, opiates, opioids, heroin, or methamphetamine felony drug offenses. It also includes drugs classified as Penalty Group 2, such as THC oil, wax, dabs, ecstasy, and Adderall. Penalty Group 3 contains depressants and stimulants. Penalty Group 4 contains prescription medications that are subject to abuse.
“Nine times out of 10, these cases are related to a vape pen containing THC,” Lisa said.
Referrals nearly doubled to 124 in 2021, which is most likely because most schools were closed for much of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Without schools, many victims were likely left without a person or counselor to report allegations of sexual assault.
Texas Penal Code Section 22.011 defines sexual assault as a person who:
“That highlights how important it is for kids to go to school and have adults they trust to report abuse to,” Lisa said.
Although misdemeanor thefts have been declining since 2017, it’s still one of the most common offenses among minors. Misdemeanor theft, in most cases, includes theft of anything less than $2,500. This offense differs from robbery, which involves taking, or attempting to take, something from someone’s possession.
Texas Penal Code defines misdemeanor theft as the unlawful appropriation of property with the intent to deprive the owner.
“These are non-violent actions that didn’t involve harm or a threat to another person,” Lisa said. “For example, shoplifting clothes or electronics.”
This offense has stayed steady in Tarrant County over the past five years, even while juvenile murder charges have skyrocketed. These assaults often include the use of a gun. Aggravated assault can be elevated to a murder charge if the victim eventually dies from the injuries.
Aggravated assault includes causing serious bodily injury. Serious bodily injury means the loss of the use of a body part or permanent disfigurement. You could be charged for this offense if you cause another person injury while using what could be considered a deadly weapon. In this situation, a deadly weapon could be a person’s fist, a knife, a handgun, or a bat. A threat made to a person while holding a deadly weapon could also be considered aggravated assault under Texas law.
“Interestingly, while the rate of murder referrals has increased more than threefold in the last five years, the average number of aggravated assaults has stayed consistent,” Lisa said.
Misdemeanor assault was the most common juvenile offense in 2021, with 638 referrals to Tarrant County Juvenile Services.
Varghese Summersett’s juvenile attorney Lisa Herrick was not surprised.
Misdemeanor assault has been the most common juvenile case in Tarrant County for years.
The two most common misdemeanor assault charges are assault by contact and assault causing bodily injury. In assault by contact charges, someone only needs to allege that you offensively touched them. Assault causing bodily injury includes the other person alleging they feel pain. The person isn’t required to show any visible evidence of injury.
“Typically, these cases include fights between students at school or between members of the same household. Somebody might have a black eye or a bloody nose, but hospital visits aren’t terribly common,” Herrick said.
Murder offenses for Tarrant County juveniles increased by more than 100 percent to 18 in 2021 from five in 2017.
A formal referral is when face-to-face contact occurs between the juvenile and the probation department.
Juveniles in Tarrant County are referred to Tarrant County Juvenile Services for alleged delinquent behavior, including both misdemeanor and felony offenses. Another violation that can instigate a referral includes a probation violation.
Juveniles can be referred by a law enforcement agency or probation department.
Formal referrals to Tarrant County Juvenile Services can be received in two ways:
Out-of-custody referrals: The referring agency notifies the Tarrant County Juvenile Services of the offense, and a letter is sent to the juvenile’s residence requesting they appear for intake and processing. When the juvenile appears for intake, the referral becomes formal.
In-custody referrals: The juvenile is physically brought to the Lynn W. Ross Detention Center by a law enforcement agency for processing and temporary detainment.
In 2021, Tarrant County reported 2,534 juvenile referrals, including 73.3% male.
Here’s a look at how the incidents broke down by age:
If your child has been detained by Tarrant County Juvenile Services, you need an experienced juvenile defense attorney on their side. Attorney Lisa Herrick is one of only three Board Certified attorneys in Juvenile Law in Tarrant County. She is a specialist in handling the complexities of juvenile and young adult crimes. For a free consultation, call her at 817-203-2220.