Cindy Rodriguez is the Urban Policy reporter for New York Public Radio.
The city is keeping many more juvenile offenders out of the court system and sending them to community based programs instead.
According to a paper released Monday by Child Welfare Watch, a non-profit publication, more than 4,500 teens under 16 had their cases diverted and closed in 2011 - 47 percent more than in 2009 and more than double the number in 2006.
The community based programs last 2 to 4 months. Victims must agree to the punishment. Andrew White from Child Welfare Watch says between January and July of 2011, shoplifting accounted for 16 percent of all offenses. That meant prosecutors had to convince department stores that diversion programs were worthwhile.
"They now have agreements with many of the largest stores in the city like H&M and Macy's where they have the authority to adjust the case," said White.
The Department of Probation decides whether to divert young juveniles. Commissioner Vincent Schiraldi says allowing youth to skip court and enter a program instead levels the playing field between poor kids of color and their middle class white peers.
"This is the kind of treatment that the middle class routinely receives. And by the way it works," said Schiraldi. "It's a good thing to not put low level middle class kids, poor kids, rich kids into the system."
Schiraldi says an assessment of how likely a youth is to re-offend is done before deciding whether a young person is appropriate for diversion. Among the factors looked at is whether a child has proper supervision. In 2011, 38 percent of all youth under 16 had their cases diverted.
According to the city 90 percent of youth made it through programs and 6 months later 86 percent had avoided re-arrest.