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Some Maryland Youths Say ‘Boredom’ Led Them Into Jail

An 11-year-old accused of stealing at least 16 cars. A 12-year-old shot at a football game, apparently by a teenager. Two people killed and 28 others injured at a block party in a shooting where one of the accused was just 14 years old, NPR reports. Violent crime has always made headlines, but it is more alarming when kids and teenagers are involved, either as victims or suspects or both. In Maryland, the number of kids and teens involved in carjackings and gun violence has raised fears among the public and concern among officials since 2020, despite state data showing a drop in overall youth violence over the past decade. NPR spoke with a diverse group of about half a dozen teens incarcerated for violent crimes in Baltimore and rural Maryland. d.


At the Baltimore City Juvenile Justice Center, R.S. says he started carrying a gun when he was 12, "because I needed it," and started robbing people because he was bored and "just to have fun." Jason says he went from robbing cars to selling drugs to give his mother money. "It was me doing right for myself or my family," he said. Maryland Department of Juvenile Services Secretary Vincent Schiraldi, who previously headed New York's notorious Rikers Island jail complex and tried to close it, says cases like these are attention grabbing but are actually outliers. The more typical cases are those of kids like K.S., who first landed in juvenile detention when he was around 10 years old after stealing a car. After several other stints in cells, K.S. calls his latest – which began before he turned 18 – "a blessing" and a wakeup call. Under state law, 33 types of crimes automatically send kids to be tried as adults before they can enter the juvenile detention system.

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