Increasing number of juveniles, young people committing serious crimes
CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - As the Charlotte area deals with an increase in crime, experts say more and more juveniles and young people are committing serious crimes.
"Unfortunately yes," said Darrell Gregory. "We're the second largest county in the state. We lead the state in serious misdemeanors and felony arrests for juveniles ages 6 to 15."
Gregory, who is Chair of the Mecklenburg County Juvenile Crime Prevention Council (JCPC), says juveniles in Mecklenburg County are averaging over 1,000 arrests for serious misdemeanors and an estimated 700 arrests for felonies.
"A lot of it comes down to two critical factors - lack of parental supervision and economics," Gregory said. "One of the root causes some of these juveniles are involved in this type of behavior is lack of money. Through that, they're making poor choices to get that."
Gregory added, "They have a common denominator, which is wanting money but not wanting to work for it or knowing how to go about getting that. And, when you have these issues come up and you couple that with no parenting or lack thereof."
Each county has a JCPC that is authorized to assess the needs of the juvenile population of the county, prioritize the threats, and fund programs to address the problems.
Experts say juveniles and young people are being influenced by entertainment, social peer groups, gang involvement, and wanting to be involved in a clique or group.
"The parent does not have the skill set needed to raise that child in a manner which would give them the foundation needed and the structure needed so they can go out outside that home and make those critical decisions where it benefits them and not put them in harm's way," Gregory said.
It's not just juveniles under 15 years old who are worrying experts.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police say their numbers show that of the 34 people arrested so far this year for homicide, more than half are under 24 years old.
Police say one homicide suspect is between 14 and 17 years old, and 18 suspects are between 18 and 24 years old.
"Truth is, kids don't have proper leadership. Kids don't have alternative lifestyles," said Shariff The Singer, who is with Dream Team for Peace. "There needs to be a standard re-established. There needs to be a re-wiring of our families, re-wiring of things that we accept."
The Dream Team for Peace is a local anti-violence organization and its leaders say they're seeing younger and younger suspects.
"There's a song - 'All my friends are dead,' or something like that, that's playing on the radio and you know it's what we're being fed in our minds... sort of like - seems like a controlling thing going on," Shariff The Singers said.
From serious misdemeanors to homicides, Gregory says, "A lot of them don't have that respect for human life and or the realization that if you're the recipient or the suspect your life is altered now - and by the grace of God if you're able to breathe and walk away – often times that's not the case."
He adds the problem of juvenile crime will continue unless resources are spent to address prevention and keep would-be offenders from getting started.
"Everyone's child is at war. We just have to do what we can to fortify them when they leave our homes that your life has value," Gregory says. "You have to make sure that every decision you make regardless of how big or small will have an immediate or long-range impact on your future."
County officials say they're looking for volunteers to serve on the JCPC.
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