NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — When Tennessee’s special session kicked off a few weeks ago, many expected the General Assembly to pass Speaker of the House Cameron Sexton’s juvenile crime bills to force some juveniles to go to adult court and prison, even though by and large juvenile crime is actually down.
“Well it’s decreasing on the number of people who are being arrested. If you go down to Shelby County, like I was down there multiple times this year, you talk to any resident down there, juvenile crime’s run amuck,” Sexton said. “I don’t think they’re going to tell you juvenile crime is decreasing in Shelby County. I think it’s increasing, the number of carjackings, the number of violent crimes.”
The House Speaker is correct that vehicle-related crimes, like carjacking, are increasing.
“In Memphis and Shelby County, at least, there has been a spike in auto thefts by those that are under 18,” said Shelby County Democratic District Attorney Steve Mulroy.
But as for those overall juvenile crime numbers, those have actually decreased significantly over the last decade, according to TBI data.
“The overall crime trend for juvenile crime has actually been down,” Mulroy said. “Now, I know that Speaker Sexton has suggested that maybe that’s just because there haven’t been as many arrests because they haven’t been able to solve as many crimes, but we actually took a look at that.”
Mulroy points out the clearance rates – essentially the cases that have been reported that law enforcement solved and closed with an arrest – haven’t dropped off.
“The clearance rates haven’t really been on a steady downward decline during that period, so I don’t think that’s the explanation,” he said. “I do think, in fact, there has been less juvenile crime.”
Still, Sexton is pushing on, saying it’s an important piece moving forward and that he’ll push for it again during regular session in January.
“Being able to have them be blended to where you can move them over to an adult population if they don’t meet certain criteria, I think is the right step to go,” he said.