NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Flip on the news, and one word keeps coming up – guns.
“I don’t know if people, or the youth, actually recognize the seriousness of what happens when they are in possession of a gun,” said Judge Sheila Calloway, a Davidson County juvenile court judge.
Calloway sees a pattern.
“Youth are going to apartment complexes or movie theaters or shopping malls, and just kinda walking through the parking lot and checking handles, and checking to see if there are some that are left open. And so those that are left unlocked are the ones getting stolen. And a lot of times they are stolen with handguns in them.”
You can practically set your watch to these crimes. She says, when school is out, youth crime goes up.
“If they don’t have anything positive to do, they are going to find something to do.”
But for many of the cases, Calloway says the child’s parents also become a focus due to paternity fights, custody battles, or arguing over parental plans.
“We do a lot of work on that end as well to make sure that the children are safe and that they are in a loving, structured home that they can get what they need to be successful.”
Because when that loving home does not exist, Calloway can see the child’s mental health suffering. And the resources – the counselors, the psychiatrists – aren’t always there.
“When I have a child that is in the middle of a mental health crisis and a breakdown, it’s unfortunate that they may have to wait a month or two months out even to get an intake appointment, because their mental health is going to decline during that time period.”
Guns, family disputes, mental health. Calloway sees all of these contributing to youth crime, and impacting the child’s brain for the worse.
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“The more likely that you have been involved with some traumas, and the more likely that your brain structure is growing differently than someone who has not been through those traumas.”
But when you sit down with Judge Calloway, it’s not all doom and gloom in her court. She sees every child, whether guilty or not, as redeemable.
“They can make a difference, they can change. And I know the brain science supports that as well.”
News 2 looks at the community consequences of the growing number of kids committing crimes and new ideas about solutions with our special reports, Juvenile Crime.