Juveniles serving less time in Tri-Cities

Juveniles serving less time in Tri-Cities
TRI-CITIES, Wash. -- The number of kids facing criminal charges is falling across the Tri-Cities. Experts believe local efforts to fight gangs are making a difference.

Sixteen-year-old Caleb Crenshaw used to be locked up in the Juvenile Justice Center. He was headed toward becoming a career criminal.

"Started getting in fights constantly from every middle school I've been expelled from. I've been doing crimes and doing drugs, drinking, and involved with the gangs," said Crenshaw.

But Caleb was able to get his life back on track. There is becoming less of a revolving door for kids doing time. Between 2011 and last year, juveniles served 20 percent less time for misdemeanors and nearly 15 percent less time for felonies. The overall number of cases coming through the juvenile justice system is also falling. Officials say the reduction is coming from many angles.

"Juvenile court does a good job with kids. Our schools are doing a good job with kids. We have a lot of non-profits working with kids," said Darryl Banks, administrator of the Juvenile Justice Center.

Non-profits like Firme, a gang outreach program is helping kids like Caleb get back on track.

"It feels good having the freedom, having someone to talk to, eating real food, sleeping in a real bed," said Caleb.

Experts also point to adding new detention officers as a help to lowering those number. Kids were often released early because there weren't beds to hold them or guards to watch them. But now the effect of everybody working together is credited with making a difference beyond the Tri-Cities.

"All of those things combined, you're seeing a reduction around the state," said Banks.

Caleb is relishing his freedom with a promise of staying on track.

"Freedom is the best,"said Caleb.

Caleb is back in school and 47 days clean. Police told KEPR the numbers have fallen because prosecutors have found alternatives to basic incarceration for juvenile offenders.