Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw once wrote, “Youth is such a wonderful thing. What a crime to waste it on children.”

Shaw’s observation takes on a new connotation this spring as youth crime seems to be on the upswing, according to Hermiston Police Chief Dan Coulombe.

“I think we’re seeing a lot more teen-related activity,” Coulombe said in a recent interview.

According to Coulombe,  youth crime tends to rise slightly every year as the weather improves and school lets out. School officials, including Hermiston High School Principal Buzz Brazeau,  agree that teens get restless in the spring.

“They always get antsy toward the end of the year,” Brazeau said, adding that dress-code violations and skipping school tend to be the major issues.

“Every year we see an influence at the end of the school (year),” Coulombe said. “Typically, we don’t see this kind of spike.”

Not only are teens seemingly more likely to commit crimes, Coulombe said he is seeing another worrying trend, illustrated by an incident during the Sandstone Middle School activity night on May 20.

What was – according to parents who called the newspaper – a fight during a Sandstone Middle School dance on May 20 led to several teens charged with disorderly conduct.

Sandstone Principal Neely Kirwan would not confirm the incident was a fight, but did admit the dance ended early and school officials called parents to come get their children.

“A few of the many, many students here made some poor choices,” Kirwan said of the event, which hosted roughly 500 students from Sandstone and Armand Larive Middle School. “Obviously we’re disappointed. (The students) were properly dealt with according to district policy.”

According to Kirwan, the incident is not reflective of a trend.

But, Coulombe said, “I think we’re seeing additional aggression in teens we’ve not seen before.”

Incidents throughout the month of May seem to back up the claim, including a 19-year-old arrested May 8 for carrying an illegal sawed-off shotgun and a 16-year-old arrested May 9 for multiple counts of rape.

Additional arrests include two teens arrested in separate incidents for theft and criminal mischief May 24; and a 15-year-old and a 19-year-old were arrested May 23 in separate incidents for manufacturing and delivery of marijuana.

Nine teens, including the teens involved in the Sandstone incident, were charged with various crimes, including disorderly conduct, possession of marijuana and criminal trespass on May 20.

Four teens were charged with various offenses on May 19 and three more were detained on May 17.

For the month of April, the HPD reported 44 juvenile arrests.

According to Coulombe the HPD  uses “common-sense judgments” and a proactive approach to help prevent and deter youth from committing crime.

One such program is the Community Accountability Board that deals with first-time youth offenders. Coulombe also said the HPD receives grants every year that help police target youth crime, including graffiti and gang associations.

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