NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - New Orleans police arrest three young teens for allegedly carjacking a couple in the Bywater Saturday night. This is the latest in a number of incidents involving juveniles. It's a trend which criminologists say, needs to be addressed.
Jim Kelly runs Covenant House in the French Quarter. "We've got to spend more money on teenagers and helping them get their life together," Kelly explained.
The center serves as a safe haven for runaways and at risk youth. Kelly says his goal is to help as many teens as possible, especially in light of the series of armed robberies and carjackings in New Orleans involving juvenile perpetrators.
Saturday night around 9:00, police say a 13, 14 and 15 year old used a gun to hold up a couple at Burgundy and Poland Avenue. The trio were later found driving the couple's car. Friday morning, around 11:00, police say a 14 and 15 year old, accompanied by a 20 year, tried to take a woman's car after brandishing a weapon. They got the keys but detectives say they were unable to start the car.
LSU criminologist Peter Scharf, Ph.D., says he's studied many more crimes in the past few months involving young teenage suspects. "The younger ones are more fierce and they're beginning to take on the older kids and they're bolder and more brazen and they're armed," Scharf explained.
Scharf says the city is trying to address the problem, especially with the creation of Mayor Landrieu's NOLA For Life program. But it's not reaching everyone. "Most kids, it's great, they get the mentoring and educating and all that but you've got to focus on the kids who are extreme risks," Scharf said.
Back at Covenant House, Jim Kelly says everyone in this city bears some responsibility for the youth in New Orleans. "Instead of just saying oh somebody else can do it, what can do we as individuals, as adults, to reach out to a teenager who needs a guiding, helping hand?" Kelly asked.
It's an effort Kelly believes, will help to save a life, and reduce crime.