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Last year on Fort Meade, more than 68 stolen bicycles were recovered by the police; all were left unsecured. There were 17 incidents in which property was stolen from vehicles that had been left unsecured, and six shoplifting cases at the Post Exchange.

The significant factor in all of these incidents is that each involved juvenile subjects.

Unfortunately, juveniles play a major role in crimes involving theft, damage and assault. Both the "Maryland Criminal Law and Motor Vehicle Handbook" and "Federal Criminal Laws and Rules" define a juvenile as someone who has not reached 18 years of age and is not married.

Nationally, more juveniles are involved in or victimized by crimes of violence than are adults. Along these same lines, adolescents comprise the largest group of abusers of prescription drugs, illegal narcotics and alcohol -- substances which are sometimes accessed from within their own homes.

Parents and guardians are responsible for their children's actions including the unfortunate repercussions that come from their delinquent acts. Many parents get involved in or identify problems in their children's lives way too late. All parents should educate their children and take an active role in knowing what they are doing each day.

So, what happens when a juvenile commits a crime on Fort Meade?

Juveniles who are suspected of committing a criminal act are immediately apprehended and brought to the police station at DES for processing. The juvenile is recommended for either Fort Meade's Juvenile Misconduct Review Board or issued an Anne Arundel County Intake Hearing Notice and will be seen by an administrative review board in Annapolis. The board determines the seriousness of the crime, whether the juvenile is a repeat offender and if the case should go forward to state court. The process takes about 45 days.

All cases are coordinated with the JMRB panel to determine if the juvenile defendant will be allowed the privilege to be heard at the installation level. The nine-member board, led by Lt. Col. Thomas Boone, commander of Headquarters Command Battalion, immediately imposes rehabilitative action.

Cases deferred by the JMRB, including more serious offenses, are sent to Anne Arundel County Juvenile Court for prosecution. If the juvenile broke state law, the county police's prosecutorial wing would determine whether a charge could be pursued. When you have a violation of state law, it goes through the Anne Arundel County juvenile justice system.

County intake workers will decide whether the juvenile court has jurisdiction over the alleged delinquent act. If the offense is serious enough, a child may be transferred to the adult system for trial. The intake worker will decide whether judicial action is in the best interests of the public and the youth, taking into account information provided by the youth's family, the victim and the arresting officer.

Based on such criteria as the seriousness of the offense, prior history of complaints and home/school environments, the intake officer will make one of the following recommendations: referral to the State's Attorney's Office for a formal hearing; provision of a 90-day pre-court supervision without immediate court intervention; resolution of the case at intake by imposing a consequence; or arrangement of an accountability hearing before a community arbitrator.

So if you wonder, "What can happen if my child is arrested for a criminal offense?" The answer is: apprehension, court appearances, fines, restitution, criminal record, and recommendation to the installation commander to have the family removed from installation housing or being barred from the installation.

Lt. Col. Howard T. Yates is the director of Fort Meade's Directorate of Emergency Services.

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