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Geography Matters

Police and school policies and practices, as well as municipal ordinances, differ from one town to the next in Massachusetts. As a result, the town where a child lives has a significant effect on whether they are arrested and drawn into the juvenile justice system, or diverted. Only a minority of police departments currently operate formal diversion programs (see our joint report with the Massachusetts Chiefs’ Association here), which can link children to resources and programs to meet their needs without resorting to prosecution and treatment by the Juvenile Court. 

As a result of these kinds of differences, there is wide variation in arrest rates between different cities and towns, what advocates refer to as “Justice by Geography.” While the overall state arrest average is 0.9 child arrests per 1000 in the under 18 population, juvenile arrest rates across towns range from 0 to more than 10 child arrests per 1000. The municipalities with the 20 highest number of juvenile arrests make up 31% of the state population but 49% of the juvenile arrests.

Source: Universal Crime Reports (UCR) data submitted to FBI via EOPSS.