NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Hundreds of juveniles are being charged for stealing cars and having guns in Metro Nashville every year, despite a downward trend of youth committing serious crimes over the past several years.

According to the Davidson County Juvenile Court, theft of vehicle charges remain concerning.
There were 268 in 2018, the same number in 2019, and 244 in 2020. Handgun possession charges among juveniles in Nashville remained above 200 for the years 2018, 2019, and 2020.

“We were concerned that there was a trend that there were a number of youth that continue to steal cars and unfortunately a lot of times the youth were stealing cars and guns were in the cars,” said Davidson County Juvenile Court Judge Sheila Calloway. “That was one trend between 2013 and 2019 that was disturbingly going higher and higher every year. It’s our hope and our wish that we could make a difference in that area because that can be a dangerous combination when a youth steals a car and steals a handgun that’s in a car.”

Judge Calloway said overall, juvenile arrests went down in 2020 because of the pandemic. But aside from that, juvenile arrests went down by about 48-percent between 2013 and 2019.

“A lot of people think – well let’s just take them to jail,” Judge Calloway said. “That’s not a good resource.”

She said one factor was working with police and MNPS to limit how many students were arrested at school.

“Literally by doing that, that reduced the number of kids being arrested in the school system significantly. 07:49 There was also a discussion between all of the same people that said why are we calling the police on the youth or if police are in the school, why are we using them more for enforcement and not in a positive way where youth can see police officers in a positive light 08:07 We had to look at the roles and look at what everyone was doing and adding to the system,” Judge Calloway said. “The school systems and the police department and the mobile crisis unit were able to come together and figure out a way where instead of arresting youth, let’s have them transported to the mobile crisis unit if it was a mental health breakdown. If a child was angry and having a mental health breakdown, they were able to reach out to the family of the child to come to pick them up or help deescalate them. They can call mobile crisis and send them to mobile crisis instead of the court system.”

Judge Calloway shared whether she felt fewer arrests meant juveniles were committing fewer crimes as well.

“It’s such a significant number that you can’t imagine that half of the crimes being committed just aren’t being arrested. The crimes that juveniles are committing are going down. I think the proof is the number of arrests has gone down. We have a fantastic police department that arrests when they need to arrest so I have no doubt it is an indication that the actual crime that youth are committing has decreased,” said Judge Calloway.

Juvenile crime is one of the focuses of MNPD’s new Office of Alternative Policing Strategies.