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Juvenile prosecutions up in Rosemount, down countywide

Total juvenile crime numbers in Dakota County decreased slightly the same in 2009, while the number of felony level juvenile offenders charged decreased 10 percent - from 260 in 2008 to 233 in 2009.

The annual report of juvenile prosecutions handled by Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom's office in 2009 was released this week.

In 2009, the number of juveniles charged with criminal offenses was 1,645, compared to 1,650 in 2008.

Rosemount was one of five jurisdictions in the county that showed an increase in the number of juveniles charged with crimes last year, from 87 to 125.

Burglary was the most commonly charged felony-level offense in Rosemount last year with three charges. Criminal damage to property was the most common gross misdemeanor with six charges.

Other jurisdictions that showed an increase in the number of juveniles charged with criminal offenses were Burnsville, Lakeville, Mendota Heights and West St. Paul.

Apple Valley, Eagan, Farmington, South St. Paul, Inver Grove Heights and the Dakota County Sheriff's office all saw a decrease in the number of juveniles charged.

This is the seventh consecutive year Dakota County has experienced a decrease in the total number of juveniles prosecuted for criminal offenses.

Most of the charges were for misdemeanor-level offenses. That number was 1,320 in 2009, up from the 1,283 charged in 2008.The number charged with misdemeanor offenses peaked in 2002 with 2,070.

"It is a good sign that the number of youth charged with a crime in our community continues to drop as the annual population estimates of 10- to 17-year-olds has increased by 1 percent per year over the past 10 years," Backstrom said.

The decrease in the number charged with felonies is also noteworthy, according to Backstrom. He drew attention to the work being done in the schools and the many partnerships developed with the police departments, school resource officers and the implementation of other prevention and intervention programs.

"I believe this commitment to addressing youth problems quickly and proactively is directly reflected in the drop we have experienced in recent years in the numbers of juveniles charged with crimes in our community," Backstrom said.

The number of charges for violent juvenile offenses also dropped last year. In 2009, 380 charges involving crimes of violence were filed against juvenile offenders, compared to 413 in 2008. The main crime of violence committed by juveniles was misdemeanor assault - the number increased from 222 to 234 offenses in 2009.

About 25 to 30 percent of the juvenile offenses occur in schools or on school property.

In 2009, 29 youth were charged with school-related violent offenses, compared with 23 in 2008. Of those numbers, three youth were charged with making terroristic threats and 17 were charged with possession of a dangerous weapon on school property.

Since 2003 the county attorney's office has had close contact with Dakota County schools. That includes training for students and staff, community forums, prevention programming and sharing of information, in addition to fast-tracking of crimes associated with school activities.

"By partnering with schools and law enforcement within Dakota County, we ensure a safe and healthy learning environment at schools," Backstrom said. "Quicker prosecution of crimes that occur on school property also sends the message that these acts will be taken seriously. This in itself is a deterrent to future crimes."

Next week - Prevention, early intervention and accountability programs are helping students in Dakota County.