JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Rodney Wallace enjoys playing basketball when taking a break from community college classes, but according to him, too many of his friends have made poor choices.
"I see a lot of kids carrying guns. I just see a lot of people who do stuff like that. I see it every day," said Wallace.
A trend emerging in Jacksonville is the increased number of minority children who are being handcuffed by police.
UNF criminologist Michael Hallett said African-American children make up 37 percent of the juvenile population in the city with around 66 percent of the arrests being black children.
What Hallett finds more disturbing is what is called "first contact violence". This means the first brush with the law is a violence related arrests.
"In the good old days we use to believe children progressed from less serious to more serious cime. Not the case? Not the case unfortunately in Duval it's less and less the case, said Hallett.
He says of the 3,000 juvenile arrests in 2011-12, 846 involved "first contact" violence.
Hallett said first contact violence points to the need for more prevention programs and diversion programs for young people when arrested.
Assistant State Attorney Julie Taylor, who heads up the County and Juvenile Court, said the numbers of cases involving young people are staggering.
In 2011, 4540 cases were filed, according to Taylor. She pointed out diversion programs are available and afford young people a way to help them instead of putting them in jail.
She said there is a misconception that many young people are charged as adults. Taylor said that in 2011, 227 were charged and handled in adult criminal court.
Wallace, who knows something about the streets, said he is not surprised more minority children are arrested even though they represent just one-third of the juvenile population in the city.
"The parents the way I look at it not disciplining them right," said the 18 year-old.
Wallace said he wants nothing to do with a life of crime.
First Coast News