By Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Judges of the Children and Youth Court of Belo Horizonte, Valéria Rodrigues Queiroz and Riza Aparecida Nery, advocated for teenagers to be allowed to work from the age of 14, as a means to prevent them from engaging in drug trafficking.
Drug trafficking was the most common criminal act committed by minors between 12 and 18 years of age in 2018, and was also among the fastest growing crimes in comparison to 2017, according to an annual report released June 6th at the Children and Adolescent Integral Assistance Center (CIA).
“It worries us. We’ve been running several programs to try to reduce this problem. We need school and employment for these children who engage in drug trafficking mainly for easy money. I hear children say that they make R$100 a day from drug trafficking. They come from low-income families, they need the money,” says Judge Riza.
The report points to a 5.63 percent decrease in juvenile delinquency in the capital, from 6,001 offenses in 2017 to 5,663 in 2018.
The number of youths caught in the act went from 10,200 in 2008 to 7,000 in 2018. “We saw a considerable drop in the number of offenses,” said Judge Valéria Rodrigues. She credited the decline to the celerity of court proceedings.
In contrast to the overall decline, there was an increase in criminal acts related to drug trafficking, murder, graffiti, and statutory rape. In 2017, minors between 12 and 18 years of age were the perpetrators of 12 homicides, rising to 14 in 2018, an increase of 16.67 percent.
The increase of statutory rape cases was 137.50 percent, rising from 8 in 2017 to 19 in 2018. Graffiti cases rose from 23 to 28, with a rise of 21.74 percent.
Trafficking-related offenses ranked top of the list, rising from 1,710 in 2017 to 1,910 in 2018, an increase of 11.70 percent.
“I blame drug trafficking on the shortage of opportunities, especially of work for this current generation of adolescents,” says Judge Valéria Rodrigues Queiroz, supervisor of the Child and Youth Coordination Office.
She advocated that legislation should allow youths to start working earlier. “According to labor laws, teenagers may only work from the age of 16. The way I see it, this age needs to be revised. Teenagers need to help at home,” she added. According to her, drug trafficking has been “the only employer” offering opportunities to these youths.
The report outlines the profile of youths committing crimes in the state capital of Minas Gerais. Most of the violations are committed by male adolescents aged between 15 and 17.
Most of them come from the poorer Northeast, Venda Nova, and East regions of the city. A portion of the adolescents (13.58 percent) live in municipalities in the metropolitan area.
“This is the result of the absence of the State in these places. We noticed an absence of policy in these places to prevent violations from being committed. I do not blame the location but rather the absence of the State”, says the judge.