CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police say so far this year, there have been 16 homicides. In three of those cases, the suspects are 19 years old or younger.
"The biggest concern right now in these neighborhoods are the amount of juveniles that are committing crimes," said Marcus Philemon of CharMeck Court Watch. "And they realize the juveniles are not being held accountable for their crimes is a major issue in Mecklenburg County, and it's only going to get worse as the juvenile age raises."
But how much of teens committing violent crimes is reality versus perception? WBTV researched 2018 homicide cases involving teens and juveniles.
Earlier in April on Barrington Drive, Maria Echeverria de Gomez was in the parking lot of her apartment complex when she was shot in the face and died. Investigators say robbery was the motive and four teens - 19, 17, 16 and 15-year-olds are responsible.
A few days later police found a missing man's body on Old Moore's Chapel Road. Detectives say a 19-year-old killed him.
And last Friday on Wembley Drive, officers thought they were responding to a motor vehicle accident but instead found a young man had been shot. A 17-year-old and two 15-year-olds have been charged.
Police have also arrested other teens for robberies and aggravated assaults.
"Overall the number of complaints for Mecklenburg County for juveniles is decreasing, but it does seem like the cases with violent crimes - those numbers are increasing for juveniles in Mecklenburg County," said Colleen Mullan, the Director of Children's Defense at the Council for Children's Rights.
Juvenile Justice advocates say statistics show that juvenile crime has decreased from ten years ago.
But Mullen, whose office represents kids ages 6 to 15, says they're seeing an increase in their cases of juveniles charged with violent crimes.
"As of April this year we've exceeded where we were in 2014 and 15," Mullan told WBTV.
So are teens who are committing crimes escalating to more violent crimes?
"There are more complex cases. These kids have a lot of needs. They have complicated histories. They have a lot going on. We don't just look at the crime, we look at everything that's going on in that child's life," Mullan said. "So we look at what's going on in the school system, what's going on at home, in the community, what are the kid's needs - be it mental health or behavioral health, substance abuse and we try and assess what that child's needs are and then implement programs and services."
"When it comes to the kids that we serve there's never enough. There's never enough programs or resources to meet the needs for these kids," Mullen added. "I think because we don't have enough trauma-informed services, we don't have enough programs to help kids stay in school, we don't have enough programs to meet their mental health and substance abuse needs. When we fail the kids in all of those ways I don't know what we can expect."
But Philemon of CharMeck Court Watch is skeptical that juvenile crime has decreased.
"You would have to demonstrate to me with statistics and with actual facts that is the case," he said. "But once again, as the juvenile age raises the general public is going to have less and less information on these juveniles so for the general public to be able to get their hands on information to make an educated decision when it refers or pertains to a juvenile case is going to be virtually impossible in the upcoming future."