Arrests of youths for robberies in the District were up 17 percent in 2011 over the previous year, a new report says.
The number of robbery arrests of people ages 17 and under reported by D.C. police increased every year since 2008, according to an analysis of Metropolitan Police Department data by the advocacy group DC Lawyers for Youth.
DC Lawyers for Youth Executive Director R. Daniel Okonkwo said there seems to be an increase in "snatch-and-run" robberies of items like iPhones and Mp3 players.
Ronald Moten -- a candidate for Ward 7's D.C. Council seat -- co-founded the nonprofit group Peaceoholics, which combats youth violence. He said that "young people have gone to robbery and burglary" in part because selling drugs is not as profitable as it once was.
D.C. police, too, try to reach out to youth to deter them from committing crimes, police spokeswoman Gwendolyn Crump said.
"Our officers and outreach staff are continuously engaging and serving the community, especially the city's youth and families, through numerous programs and initiatives," she said.
To prevent robberies, Okonkwo suggests "more boots on the ground" -- putting police in high-traffic areas during peak times for robberies.
He also praised D.C. police's efforts to target people who sell stolen electronics. "[That's a] fantastic way to get at the problem," Okonkowo said.
Moten said police are doing a good job at arresting suspects, but suggested the city could do more to address the causes of the crimes.
"There's no real strategy on the front end," he said.
In 2011, police began to place many incidents that would have been previously classified as "other misdemeanors" or "other felonies" into more specific categories. That could contribute to an increase in arrests in particular categories such as robberies, the lawyers' report said.
Overall, youth arrests in the District declined, the report found. There were 3,464 arrests of people under 18, the fewest in the past five years. Last year saw a 6 percent decrease in the number of youth arrests over the previous year, and a 15 percent decrease from a recent peak in 2009, the brief stated.
Okonkwo said this decline could have occurred because "there's more available for young people to do" and because social services organizations work to "keep them on the right path."