Would you guess Erie County Common Pleas Courts Juvenile Division has an abnormally high annual case load, compared to juvenile courts in other Ohio counties?
Mahoning County — population 238,823, with the county seat of Youngstown — had 4,438 juvenile cases in 2012, or about 19 such cases per 1,000 residents.
Compare this to Erie County (population 77,079), which had 4,257 juvenile cases that same year — or 55 juvenile cases per 1,000 residents.
Mahoning County, three times the size of Erie County, only had 193 more juvenile cases closed than Erie County in 2012.
Some would say, “So our juvenile court has almost three times more cases, per 1,000 residents, than the juvenile court in Mahoning County. Sandusky kids are bad. It's all poor parenting."
To that, I say look at the statistics from other counties.
Hamilton County (population 802,374) had 35 juvenile cases per 1,000 residents last year; Lucas County (population 441,815) had 27 cases per 1,000 residents; Cuyahoga County (population 1.28 million) had just 20 juvenile cases per 1,000 residents.
The list goes on: Montgomery County (population 535,153) had 28 juvenile cases per 1,000 residents; Summit County (population 541,781) had 14 per 1,000 residents.
I can keep going, but this all holds true when you compare Erie County to Ohio counties of equal or lesser population.
Don’t take my word for it. Please go to www.supremecourt.ohio.gov/Public..., then scroll down to “2012 Ohio Courts Statistical Reports. Then, scroll down 126 pages to “Courts of Common Pleas – Juvenile Division Overall Caseloads 2012," and research it for yourself.
So Columbus, Cincinnati, Toledo, Cleveland, Dayton, Akron, Youngstown and other cities don’t have the parenting issues or juvenile crime problems to the extent Sandusky does?
Does Erie County lead Ohio in social collapse? Do we have the most criminal children in Ohio?
Or, could it be we are unnecessarily arresting and convicting youths?
I'll tell you what. Go to Hancock Street here in Sandusky and walk up to some teens, engage them in conversation, deliver a positive message, and then come back and tell me how some of them made fun of you, but you were not harmed.
Now, take that same positive message to the corner of E. 55th St., Kinsman Road and Woodland Avenue in search of teens. When you return, tell me why Erie County had more than twice the juvenile cases per 1,000 residents in 2012 than Cuyahoga County.
Something is going on in Erie County’s Juvenile Court.
We do have reason not to trust our children to the judicial system. We need to scrutinize our juvenile court system until we are assured our children receive honest and just treatment. We need to address this moral crisis, in ways other than the ways that have already proven unsuccessful.
We also need to stop focusing all of our scrutiny on the cops and courts, and focus half of that on ourselves.
Some of us don’t see our kids. Some of us don’t have a penny or a minute for them. Some of us love our kids and treat them as so, but do nothing for the kids in the neighborhood who aren’t so lucky. Some of us are here for our non-biological children, but can never replace that child’s absent father.
What can we do?
Nonsupport of dependents only applies to financial support. The state can’t make someone raise their children.
We need to accept the fact that a considerable number of children in our community are being raised without a father in the home. In some homes, a father is entirely absent.
Some kids will be just fine without their father, having uncles, coaches, grandfathers, or a strong mother to fill the void.
But some won’t.
We can choose: Either develop a community love that we raise at-risk children as a community — together — or develop programming to help raise the children, who without help, could be lost, forgotten by us as well.