Chattanooga police and the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office together arrested 1,204 children and teenagers under the age of 18 during 2010. By 2014, that number had dropped to just 478.
Local officials say the decline is the result of a general shift in juvenile justice away from punitive, arrest-focused work and toward more comprehensive ways of dealing with juvenile offenders that don't automatically end with minors in handcuffs.
"Law enforcement officers have been empowered to use more discretion than in years past," said Rob Philyaw, Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge. "Many times, the police, school resource officers or school administration deal with the problem, talk to the child, and get things resolved immediately or in short time relative to the incident without arresting the child."