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If the stifling summer heat wasn’t enough to set D.C. residents’ teeth on edge, the declaration of a “crime emergency” this month magnified fears that even affluent areas are now the hunting ground for roving bands of lawless youth. An increase in juvenile robbery arrests, coupled with a rash of 14 homicides during the first 13 days of July, including a high-profile Georgetown slaying, created a perfect storm of public outrage, intensive media coverage, and the hasty approval of emergency crime measures by D.C. Council members acutely aware of the city’s primary election, now just six weeks away. But officials in the D.C. juvenile-justice system disagree as to whether the statistics represent a juvenile crime wave, and the difficulties in rehabilitating violent youths run much deeper than the current public debate over curfews and increased police overtime. “I don’t think it’s fair to dismiss the seriousness of what is going on in the city. I don’t know if it is worth being alarmed over,” says D.C. Family Court Presiding Judge Anita Josey-Herring. “We should see this as an opportunity to come together and work on the core issues that are causing kids to get involved in crimes, and that is a lot harder to do than just ask that kids be locked up.” The underlying causes of juvenile crime crisscross the artificially drawn boundaries of government bureaucracies, branching into educational failures, mental health services, drug treatment, youth employment, and parental responsibility. For decades the D.C. juvenile-justice system has not met the challenge, says Peter Nickles, lead plaintiffs attorney on the 20-year-old Jerry M. v. District of Columbia case that is forcing reform of the District’s once-notorious Oak Hill Youth Center. “You’ve got a culture of inattention and apathy,” he says. “It’s one damn level of bureaucracy on top of the other.” Systemic changes at the D.C. Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS), which operates Oak Hill, together with efforts to improve the handling of cases at Family Court, may have a more lasting impact than curfews or cameras, with the hope that violent kids can be rehabilitated, rather than graduating to adult prisons or dying on the street. “We have locked up these young people who literally have given up and have a hopeless attitude on life, and that is scary,” says Inspector Lillian Overton, commander of the

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