Communities face rising youth violence across the nation

  • Communities across the U.S. are facing a rise in youth violence
  • Homicides committed by children under 14 at highest level in two decades
  • Experts say gangs are driving the problem and targeting younger kids

(NewsNation) — A 16-year-old shot outside a New York City high school. A 14-year-old arrested for a brutal subway attack on a boy with autism. And an 8th grader shot in a drive-by in Chicago.

The three examples are a tiny sliver of the youth crime plaguing America just this week.

Even in small cities such as Springfield, Missouri, crime involving kids is up dramatically.

“Within the last four or five months we have had six or seven kids who were charged with some form of murder,” said Bill Prince, the chief juvenile officer for the Greene County Juvenile Office.

Children’s courthouses are busier than ever.

In North Carolina, juvenile violent crime is up 21% over the past year. In New York City, police said 124 juveniles committed shootings during 2022, up from 62 in 2020, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Nationally, the number of killings committed by children under 14 recently hit its highest level in two decades, according to the latest federal data.

NewsNation recently visited a children’s courthouse in Miami. Kids as young as 13 wore navy blue detention sweatsuits and stood before the judge to hear their charges.

The courtroom was almost empty. Many parents didn’t show up for their own children’s hearings.

A 13-year-old boy was one of the only people with a family member in court. His grandmother sat and listened as the judge described the threat the boy made in school.

“He was going to jump him until he went unconscious,” the judge explained.

The boy’s grandma said he was an honor roll student without any priors and didn’t understand what had gone wrong.

Experts say the nationwide problem of youth violence is getting worse.

“Everyone I speak to tells me the same thing: They are younger and younger,” explained Jorge Colina, former chief of Miami Police. “You stop three or four kids in a car, young adults, and it is the 13-year-old that ends up having the gun and that’s because they gave him the gun.”

Colina, who now works with the Department of Justice helping local law enforcement agencies, says gang members are giving kids guns to avoid getting in trouble themselves.

Due to the rise in youth crime, prosecutors around the country are increasingly charging 16- and 17-year-olds as adults. That means gangs are targeting even younger teens who can avoid being tried as adults.

“They will literally recruit kids by telling them, ‘We will let you hang out with us, we will let you post some pictures on social media with us, we are the cool kids,” said Colina. “Because of their age and maturity, (younger teens) are easy prey.”


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