NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — As Nashville looks towards a new year, some of the same old problems have the opportunity to carry over. However, city and state leaders are working to give teens a second chance as juvenile crime increasingly rises.
“Anytime young people are out of school and regardless of whether school is in session, anytime they are not participating in school, the chances are that there’s an opportunity there for mischief and for them to be connected with us in an unhealthy way,” said Jennifer Wade, the court administer for the Davidson County Juvenile Justice Center.
| READ MORE | Latest headlines from Nashville and Davidson County
According to Wade, it’s important to watch for such opportunities during the aftermath of the holiday season when alcohol is around.
“If you have alcohol consumption in the home, to make sure that you’re locking those things up and that that’s not available to youth in the home, and then also making sure that you’re maintaining possession of your vehicle, as well, so we don’t want young children out doing illegal activities or consuming alcohol. We also don’t want them in possession and control of a vehicle,” Wade explained.
Juvenile crime has been at the forefront of the past year, with young teens committing serious crimes, including homicide, carjacking, and robbery.
News 2 went digging into the number of crimes and found nearly 3,000 teens have been charged with a crime. The majority of those teens were charged with running away.
“Truancy is just an indicator, oftentimes, that there are more significant problems that are going on within a family,” Wade said. “But if we can have truancy be the thing that brings a child to the attention of the court, then we know that we can work with that family.”
Now, the focus has shifted to giving young teens another option.
Mayor John Cooper announced his office is partnering with 60 organizations throughout Metro Nashville to increase after-school programs, which is a priority for those at the Juvenile Justice Center.
“When you surround youth with positive influences, positive mentors, positive programming, you’re going to get positive results, and so what we see a lot of times, the youth that get in trouble, they get in trouble in groups, and they’re all thinking negative thoughts, and they’re doing negative things,” explained Judge Sheila Calloway with the Davidson County Juvenile Justice Center.
Within the past year, juveniles convicted of first-degree murder no longer face mandatory 51-year sentencing. The Tennessee Supreme Court has ruled that a mandatory life sentence is “cruel and unusual punishment when imposed on a juvenile homicide offender.”
Looking ahead to 2023-2024, Sen. London Lamar introduced Bill SB0015, which would require audiovisual recordings to be made of any interrogation of a child who has been taken into custody on suspicion of a crime.