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Girls' violence on rise? Experts differ...

Before a 14-year-old girl accused of shooting a 13-year-old girl during an altercation Tuesday can return to her Detroit home, her guardians must pledge there are no firearms in the home.

So ruled Wayne County Juvenile Court Referee Kelly Ramsey on Wednesday, as she decided the girl could be released on a $25,000 bond on charges of assault with intent to commit murder and using a firearm to commit a felony.

National experts in criminology at the University of Missouri-St. Louis told the Free Press on Wednesday that a teenage girl shooting another teenage girl is rare.

In 2008, the most recent year for which data were available, 676 of the 61,406 nonfatal shootings nationwide involved female victims between ages 12-17. And, based on data gathered in 2005, males are four times more likely to commit aggravated assault than females, no matter their age.

That makes the Tuesday night shooting on 24th Street near Michigan Avenue unusual, said Richard Rosenfeld, a criminologist with the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

"Female-on-female crime, statistically speaking, is very rare," he said.

But Carl Taylor, a Michigan State University professor who has written several books on urban crime -- including "Girls, Gangs, Women and Drugs" (Michigan State University Press, 1993) -- said Wednesday that the national statistics don't reflect the urban reality.

"Females are very much part of the violence I've seen," he said.

Details of the shooting

The 13-year-old victim in Tuesday's shooting is in stable condition at a metro Detroit hospital, Detroit police spokesman John Roach said. Her name is not being released.

Witnesses told police that she was among a group of girls who approached the 14-year-old, who was sitting with an older sister on her front porch, at about 8 p.m.

Police said Wednesday that it was still unclear what prompted the fight between the two girls, but at some point, the two started slugging. The 14-year-old pulled out a handgun and fired, according to the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office, which announced charges against the alleged shooter Wednesday afternoon.

Although experts agree that young women on Detroit's streets are less likely to be armed than young men, Taylor said girls aren't immune from succumbing to gun-toting roughness.

"I've discovered that young women are threatening, fighting, defending, carrying guns and participating in the violence on the streets," said Taylor, a sociologist. "The streets are rough, and there are very tough girls in Detroit."

Plenty of girls are armed, he added.

After posting bond, the 14-year-old charged in Tuesday's shooting would be under house arrest, barred from contact with the victim or her family, and ordered to wear a tether after a guardian signs an affidavit swearing there are no guns or weapons in the home, officials said. A pretrial hearing is set for June 7.

Data dispute crime wave

Violent crime nationwide is declining among males and females, said Janet Lauritsen, a professor of criminology at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

It's a fact supported by years of data, she said, even if it feels counterintuitive during Detroit's recent spate of high-profile crime -- which has included the shooting deaths of a Detroit police officer, a grandmother struck by an errant bullet, a 17-year-old who allegedly gave someone a dirty look and a 7-year-old girl shot by an officer during a police raid.

Based on data since 1973, females are far less likely to commit violent crime, she said.

Rosenfeld said female-on-female homicides are far rarer than assaults: In 2006, a year in which there were nearly 15,000 homicides, just one female age 12-17 killed another female in the same age range.

Taylor said a lot of crimes involving young females are unreported or underreported, especially in urban areas. And just as disputes with young males escalate into gunplay, so can fights with young females.

"What they're fighting over today has gotten progressively more ridiculous, more unexplainable, even for me as a researcher," he said. "I can't make sense out of nonsense.

"But," he added, "I report what I find."...

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