Via WBRZ –
BATON ROUGE – Amid a surge in violent crime among juvenile offenders in the capital area, the WBRZ Investigative Unit sat down with key stakeholders talking about the root cause and ways to fix it.
There’s no single or simple answer as to how we got here as crime among the youngest offenders increases.
Last year, Baton Rouge set a record with 117 murders. So far this year, ten victims are 17 years old or younger. The number of juveniles arrested for murder is also alarming. In 2018, there were eight arrested. In 2019, there were five, and this year there have been ten so far.
“We do see the same individuals a lot,” Baton Rouge Police Deputy Chief Darren Moses said. “We make the arrest. We send them through the court process, on that end there is an issue with due process.”
Those sentiments are echoed by judges who see the offenders come before them.
“I’m seeing more serious crimes come through my courtroom certainly,” Juvenile Judge Adam Haney said.
Haney said when juveniles commit serious felonies, there’s a lack of understanding about how the court process works. Even in the most heinous of cases, a juvenile must be tried in a short window of time. It creates challenges for prosecutors having to gather evidence quickly to present at trial. That means a juvenile can be arrested, enter a plea, and face a conviction within that time frame.
“In less than three months that youth has been arrested, adjudicated… and sentenced all within a span of three months,” Haney said. “For most cases in adult court, within three months they haven’t even been charged yet.”
This week, two juveniles were arrested for separate shootings in West Baton Rouge Parish. Decisions were made to charge both of them as adults. District Attorney Tony Clayton so frustrated, he said things need to change.
“I say and I make a plea to the legislators of Louisiana, you have to revise the rules in this state that deal with juveniles,” District Attorney Tony Clayton said. “To not have sister parishes accept these juveniles, and the only avenue is for me to go to Alabama when a juvenile kills someone or send them home with an ankle bracelet is ridiculous.”
People on the streets recognize the problem is real.
“Kids need something to do,” Eulanda Stevens said. “To stop the crime, somebody gonna have to take the initiative and say well lets all get together and help these kids so they can all put these guns down and stop killing each other.”
WBRZ traveled across the city talking to key stakeholders in a quest for answers and the implications for our city.
“I think that the concern we have about the image of Baton Rouge as a safe community is as much for who we are already here as opposed to the ones that might come as businesses,” Adam Knapp with the Baton Rouge Area Chamber said.
We found Intervention is paramount when problems are pinpointed. Toni Bankston with the Children’s Advocacy Center said getting juveniles who are victims the help they need is paramount so they don’t become offenders.
“Often times when children come here they had a trauma that happened two years ago or three years ago,” Bankston said. “The sooner we get them, the less at risk they are to take on bad behaviors that we see. The less likely they are to move into the territory of being a victimizer.”
If you know someone in need of help, WBRZ has compiled a list of resources in our community with people offering help.
Youth program links:
Family Youth Services- https://www.fysc-ebr.org/on-site-partners.html
City Parish Juvenile Services- https://www.brla.gov/367/Juvenile-Services
YMCA youth programs- http://www.ymcabr.org/programs
Big Buddy- https://www.bigbuddyprogram.org/
Front Yard Bikes- https://www.frontyardbikes.com/
Humanities Amped- http://www.humanitiesamped.com/