If you think juvenile crime is happening more frequently in Middle Tennessee, you’re right.
We asked Metro Police if juvenile crime was this bad five years ago.
Lieutenant Blaine Whited replied, “No it was not. It was a different type of crime. This has transitioned. You see in the last several years our residential burglary numbers have really plummeted. In those years prior to that, that was kind of the juvenile crime. Truancy, skipping school, they’d go out and break into someone’s home during the day when no one was at home, they were at work, no confrontation. That has completely transitioned into what we’re dealing with now, with violent crime.”
Police say one example is the murder of a Nashville musician in February 2019. The victim, 24-year-old Kyle Yorlets, was shot outside his home during an attempted robbery. Five juveniles between the ages of 12 and 16 are accused of killing him.
Lieutenant Whited says too many people are still leaving their cars unlocked with the keys within reach of thieves. He says they don’t necessarily want what’s in the car, they want the car. And this case, like so many others, started with car theft, which police call a “gateway behavior.”
“There were at least two stolen vehicles that were linked to that case. And again that’s kind of where things start is with that initial stolen vehicle,” said Lieutenant Whited.
In some cases, crime is filtering into Nashville from other cities, or out of Nashville into other cities.
“We oftentimes are seeing these children utilize stolen cars to go across jurisdictional boundaries, so it’s not just affecting those communities specifically, they’re affecting all of our communities,” Lieutenant Whited told News 2.
That’s why officers are actively looking for vehicles as soon as they’re reported stolen.
“We really put a lot of resources in trying to get that car back as quick as possible because we know good things aren’t going to happen the longer that car is out there in the hands of someone it doesn’t belong to. They use that as a weapon because they now take that car and use it as a mode to go crash into another car or commit a robbery in another jurisdiction, in another part of town that normally they wouldn’t have had that avenue to commit that crime,” said Lieutenant Whited.
And we’re told in many cases, adults are “recruiting” juveniles to commit the crimes so there will be a lighter penalty.
Lieutenant Whited said, “We see juveniles and adults working together all the time. Gun store burglaries. We would see that there was gang involvement with them seeking to get youth to go out and do these gun store burglaries to bring those weapons back into the gang environment so that they could then distribute them how they saw fit.”
Members of law enforcement across Middle Tennessee decided something has to be done to stop all the juvenile crime, so they’re working together.
Lieutenant Whited told News 2, “We started what we call juvenile crime summit that brings all of the agencies in Middle Tennessee, law enforcement, the District Attorney’s Office and any juvenile specific court personnel to the table and lets us discuss the problems that we’re experiencing, which is youth violent crime. Youth violent crime is not just a Nashville problem, it’s basically become a Middle Tennessee problem. And that’s not just saying that children from Nashville are going to these other areas, we all have our problem children.”
Now officers are exchanging information more openly.
“It benefits us when we can exchange that information so that way we know who it is specifically we’re looking at that is committing these crimes. Suspect, demographic information—that’s being shared. If someone has a case let’s say specifically, let’s say Franklin Police have a robbery tonight. Well, they’re going to send that information if they have surveillance, photographs, whatever description the victim gave, they’re then going to send that out to our partners and we’re more than likely going to know who that is,” Lieutenant Whited explained.
He says the whole community has to be involved if we want juvenile crime to stop.
“It’s going to take more than just police. This is not a problem that we can arrest our way out of. It’s just not. Crimes that are occurring in our jurisdictions, they don’t fit the criteria to lock these youth up and throw away the key, that just, it’s not possible. The legislature does not provide for that. So we have to look at this realistically and we have to get everybody involved. That starts with parents at home, that goes to the school system, that goes to the police department, that goes to the juvenile court system, our District Attorneys, probation, citizens on the streets, when they see something they have to say something,” Lieutenant Whited continued.
Again, many times, juvenile crime starts with a stolen vehicle, so officers want to remind you to be responsible. Always lock your doors, and keep your keys with you, and never leave your firearm where anyone other than you can access it.
Metro Police told News 2 that in most cases, the juveniles they arrest are repeat offenders. They said they’re working with the Tennessee Chiefs of Police Association in hopes of changing some of the laws pertaining to youth offenders. We’re told they can’t mention specifically what laws are being looked at right now but it could happen in the near future.
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