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Experts: Understanding risk factors could be 1st step in deterring juvenile crime

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) - Understating the risk factors of why kids and teen commit crimes could be the first step in deterring juveniles from breaking the law, according to experts. 

"What we know from a research standpoint is that in general, teens are more likely to engage in risky behaviors," said local therapist and professor at Lipscomb University Professor, Justin Briggs, Ph.D. 

Earlier this year, a 13-year-old boy was arrested by Metro police after allegedly holding up a Hermitage store owner at gunpoint. 

Research shows compared to adults, on average, juveniles are more impulsive, emotional and reckless. 

Briggs said that is especially true of young men. 

"Most of us, if we're honest, will look back at our teen years and think, 'How did I do that? Why did I think that was a good idea?'  The reason we think that is probably in part because our brains are now wired differently." 

Briggs said the adolescent brain still has a lot of maturing to do, with reasoning and judgment still developing well into our twenties. 

Research shows when teens commit crimes, they are often only focused on short-term pleasure, rather than future consequences. 

"When I work with families and teens, I kind of remind teens the consequences of your actions get way more severe.  Just because you may have some naivete or immaturity that led you to behave the way you did, doesn't mean you're not going to have serious consequences to your actions," said Briggs. 

Back in June, two juveniles were caught burglarizing cars in Antioch.  When confronted, one of the teenagers fired a gun at the victim.  Because of the drastic difference in cognitive abilities, Briggs believes the penalties for adults committing crimes versus kids should be evaluated properly. 

"We understand that there's a developmental difference there and it's not always fair or reasonable to treat a kid like you would, an adult." 

He also said adolescents can oftentimes be rehabilitated.  

 "Just because you've made some mistakes, or you've had a tough upbringing, or the chips have been stacked against you in the past, doesn't mean you can't learn how to overcome that in the present and future." 

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