In 2017, the legislator raised the age of criminal responsibility to 18; now, explosive analysis by the NYPD reveals that the number of teenage shooters and victims in New York City has tripled in the five years since.
The Raise the Age Act made it nearly impossible to prosecute 16- and 17-year-olds as adults, sending them instead to the family court system, which was utterly unprepared to handle the large numbers of “difficult business”, and still is.
It’s no coincidence that only 9.2% of shooters arrested or named by the NYPD in the first eight months of 2017 were under the age of 18. During the same period in 2022, it was 12.7% of a much larger total, as gun crime doubled in those five years.
More teenagers are obtain fired, too, going from 5.7% of gunshot victims in the 2017 period to 10.9% in that of 2022. The gross total rose from 36 to 111.
Additionally, according to the Citizens Crime Commission, the average age at which children first pick up a gun has dropped from 16 or 17 to just 12 or 13. And the NYPD report also notes that recidivism among teenagers has also increased.
All of this justifies the alarms raised by Albany County District Attorney David Soares, who is grimly eloquent about the misfortune of the family court system, noting that even shooters are given juice and cookies before being expelled – and how judges are setting impossible standards for sending these culprits to criminal court instead.
Worse still, organized criminals in New York have seen the value of these Get Out of Jail Free cards: since those under 18 face no real consequences if they get caught packing, gangs began to recruit children.
In other words, Raise the Age was an open invitation to create “child soldiers”.
Remember, in 2017 the state and city bars warned that family court was the wrong place to try serious criminal offenses. But the legislature and government of the day. Andrew Cuomo went ahead anyway – and hasn’t gone far enough since then to deal with the disaster.
Raise the Age had quite a noble intention: Don’t send teenagers into a criminal justice system that could turn a casual offender into a hardened criminal. The problem is that the reform removed all meaningful consequences for teenage crime – and thus made it easier for under-18s to get caught committing. ever more serious crimes, becoming more depraved, when real intervention might have put them on a better path.
This “reform,” in short, produced precisely the nightmare it was intended to prevent. Add it to the long list of disastrous Albany criminal justice mistakes.