Davidson Co. District Attorney Glenn Funk and Juvenile Court Judge Sheila Calloway stopped by the News 2 studio to discuss violent crimes committed by children after five teenagers were arrested and charged with a 24-year-old man’s murder and multiple carjackings this week in Nashville.
Because of their professional ties to this particular case, both judicial figures could only comment in the abstract.
Both Calloway and Funk believe that lowering the number of violent crimes committed by children begins with the community — and what we are doing, or not doing, to make sure that children grow up in a stable environment and learn values, like empathy, that we hold dear as a society.
“I agree with [what’s beings said]… we, as a community, have to do more for our children,” Calloway said. “We are failing our kids when we are not doing more for them. We need to make sure they’re in school each and every day. We need to make sure that we, as a community, are providing important, good programs for these kids after school. If we’re doing more on the front end, we prevent more problems from happening.”
Calloway said the entire community, not just her office and the DA’s office, have to stand up and fight for change.
“It’s got to be the entire community that stands up and says, ‘we love our kids. we want to teach our kids how to behave appropriately. we want to keep them out of trouble,’ and we have to do that as a community.”
According to Calloway, a lot of confusion surrounding why children would commit these violent crimes and why they don’t understand the consequences comes down to science.
“It’s unfortunate; children’s brains don’t develop the same way as adults. Brain science clearly shows that children don’t have the mechanism to make good decisions and understand the consequences because of brain development,” Calloway explained. “When you add adverse childhood experiences to the already slower brain development — then children who have already experienced a lot of trauma are not fully developed in their brain, they are not going to be able to understand the seriousness of the things that they do.”
D.A. Funk said there’s another thing to consider first in this scenario — and in many other similar situations: the victim.
“One thing I think we should start every conversation with is — we’ve got a victim here that is 24 years old that is now deceased,” he said. “No matter how old the person was that pulled the trigger, he’s still deceased and his life is gone. We should really focus on the fact that this victim did not deserve to lose his life in this manner to violent crime.”
Funk said the reason we see kids of younger ages committing violent crimes is due to the proliferation of firearms in our society.
“We’ve seen a number of ways that kids are getting their hands on firearms — whether it’s because someone in their family isn’t locking up their gun properly; whether it’s buying a gun off the streets where you can buy a gun relatively inexpensively; we’re also seeing young people, kids, juveniles walk through parking lots — what used to be a simple car burglary — to see if there’s change in the change tray of the car — now, people are for some reason irresponsibly not locking their cars and leaving their firearms inside, and a 12-year-old might get their hands on a gun!
Funk said his office asks Judge Calloway and other juvenile judges to detain any children found in possession of a firearm for at least 30 days to communicate the seriousness of the crime and deter future issues.
“We’ve got to take juvenile crime with regards to gun crimes very seriously,” Funk said.