The changing face of firearm-related contacts

As in many other locations in the US, crime rates for some types of violent crime have increased in Harris County over the past few years, particularly during 2020 and 2021. Of particular interest to decision makers and the public in general has been the perceived increase in the use of firearms in the commission of these crimes, both by adults and juveniles. To assist key county
stakeholders in their response to address and prevent the use of guns by Harris County youth, TPL conducted a descriptive analysis of youth who have been charged with firearm-related offenses.

The analysis contains three parts. First, it describes the characteristics of youth involved in firearm offenses, comparing them to the characteristics of the typical youth in the juvenile justice system. Second, it measures how these characteristics have changed in recent years, when firearm use increased, and identifies which of these changes are specific to firearm-related offenses and which are simply the reflection of widespread system changes. Finally, the report explores in detail whether justice-involved youth have become more likely to use firearms at a younger age or earlier in their involvement with the system. The analysis finds no evidence of such changes.

The final report can be found here. This report was also included in a memo prepared for the Harris County Commissioners Court by the Harris County Commissioners Court Analyst Office.

This project is part of our long-term partnership with the Harris County Juvenile Probation Department (HCJPD), in which we aim to quantitatively characterize the multiple decisions that affect the youth in the system, rigorously evaluate programs and services, and identify racial disparities throughout the system. Our research will directly inform HCJPD leadership, as well as other stakeholders, such as the Harris County Juvenile Board, as they implement policies, changes, and programs to achieve their vision for youth justice in Harris County.

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