NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Federal authorities are beefing up efforts to prosecute and prevent juvenile crime in New Orleans.
The push comes on the heels of what many believe are increased incidents, but the statistics show that juvenile arrests across the U.S. are actually down.
One of the most recent incidents happened at the corner of Dwyer Road and Wilson on Saturday afternoon, when a 14-year-old robbed a 16-year-old.
"Today in the world we live in, nothing surprises me," said New Orleans East resident Monique Lation.
"That's shocking to see a 14-year-old to hold up a 16-year-old," said resident Joseph Cousin.
Police have made an arrest in the case, bringing to 62 the number of juveniles arrested in New Orleans this year for gun crimes. That's up dramatically from last year, and U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite is taking action, placing signs at schools across Southeast Louisiana in an effort to plant a seed in kids' minds to eschew guns and drugs. He's also asking for a commitment.
"A little over 20,000 young people are taking a student pledge against gun violence," said Polite.
"It can make a difference, but it has to start with the parents," said parent Monique Lation, who adds that she raised her kids to be successful adults in the Ninth Ward by keeping close tabs on them.
"I kept pushing, and it wasn't easy, but I done it," Lation said.
Polite doesn't disagree, but he's beefing up efforts to prosecute gun violence for those who go astray.
"At worst, you have parents out there encouraging drug trafficking," Polite said.
Polite just added six new prosecutors to the section dealing with gun violence, bringing the number to 18 - his largest department. And parents of wayward children could be targeted.
"Once we can prove they are part of a conspiracy or aiding and abetting, those are statutes that we use on a regular basis," Polite said.
For Polite, the mission is personal. He's from the streets of New Orleans and knows all too well the impact of juvenile crime.
"I was born and raised in this city and have had family members who were victims of crime," he said.
People tired of crime hope the effort succeeds.
"I think it can make a difference," Cousin said.
"All of this is good, but the parents have to be involved at all times," Lation said.
But when they aren't, they and their children could wind up being prosecuted under Polite's new push.
Though juvenile arrests are up in New Orleans, the U.S. Justice Department says fewer young people are being arrested across the country.
Under federal statute, anyone caught with a gun or drugs within 1,000 feet of a school could face five years in prison.