Judge: Number of younger kids committing violent crimes on the rise

Photo: FOX 17 News

Teen crime is on the decline, according to Davidson County Juvenile Court Judge Sheila Calloway, but the number of younger kids committing violent crimes is on the rise. Some parents like Danielle Brown say they are desperately trying to keep their kids out of a life of crime.

“She assaulted police, throwing glass and I just told Juvenile Court that you’ll just have to do what you have to do because we’re not going to come and pick her up,” said Brown.

Brown says her 15-year-old daughter has been in trouble for several years. Since she was 8, Brown says her daughter has been arrested several times and suspended at least seven times shortly after school started. She says police and the court system have told her there’s not much they can do for her child. Brown is frustrated and feels out of options.

“What was told to us is that if we don’t come to pick up that we would be charged with abandonment. I finally had to let my ‘no’ be my ‘no’ and said she could not come back here,” said Brown.

It’s the same desperate cry as Martine Wright, the mother of a 16-year-old suspect in the deadly shooting of Kyle Yortlets.

Yortlets died after police say a group of teenagers and a 12-year-old stole his wallet and tried to take the keys to his car before shooting and killing him. Wright said she reached out to the legal system for help but got none.

Both mothers now hurting and helpless, hoping the city's juvenile system can do something but Calloway says court isn’t the only answer.

“Sure, it’s an easy answer. Yeah let’s just lock them up and hope when they get out they’ll be better that way. It doesn’t work that way,” said Calloway.

Calloway says court should be the last stop, not the first. She says they can’t keep every child locked up for every crime for extended periods of time. Those who posed a danger outside of the detention center remain locked up. But overall, Calloway says arrest isn’t the answer.

She added that several studies show the frontal lobe of kid’s brains have not developed. That portion of the brain is used to make decisions, according to Calloway. She says that’s a critical contributing factor to the bad and dangerous decisions some kids are making. She's calling on the community to step up.

“We have to work together as a community. It can’t all just be on the court system to solve this problem. It has to be on the entire community to say we love our children enough that we want to save our children,” said Calloway.

She says the solution involves several stakeholders working in concert – community support groups, faith based groups, support services for parents and kids as well. Once they’re released from jail, Calloway says there aren’t many options to offer the kids so they return to bad behavior. Tay McGee who runs the REAL program at the Oasis Center says that’s where they step in.

“We’re trying our best to make sure they have an outlet and they have somewhere to go. I got a place where they can feel like they belong and can be productive,” said McGee.

McGee, who oversees the Oasis Center’s REAL program say they are looking for ways to expand the program to other parts of the area like Antioch to reach more kids.

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