Tracking Juvenile Crime: NOPD sees escalation of violence

Tracking juvenile crime

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Arlinda Weathersby had just pulled up to her home when she decided to sit in her car and make a quick phone call.

"I was dialing a number. I had my seat belt on, I had Anita Baker playing on my CD, and all of sudden, I hear someone say 'Get out of the car'." Weathersby said.

In shock, she turned around to see the face of what she said looks like a young child.

"So he tries to reach into the car to turn off the ignition. He starts saying to turn the ignition off, and I said, 'No. I'm not going to get out of my car.' I said, 'I have things to do. I'm calling my doctor.' He started reaching in, and I went like this because I was kind of disturbed. This is a child, a young child," Weathersby said.

As the struggle continued, Weathersby noticed a gun in the boy's other hand.

"So I did not know it was there, and this other kid that was with him comes over and he's trying to grab my cell phone through the crack in the window. I hit his hand away and I said, 'No, I'm not getting out of my car,'" Weathersby said.

Refusing to back down, she said the armed children both took off running.

"I saw these two kids running down the street. One of them had little slippers on and socks. They were gone. I was just so mad. I dialed 911, and I told the lady I just had someone try to carjack me," Weathersby said.

Police never solved the attempted carjacking, but that wasn't what disturbs Weathersby the most.

"It's the idea that this child had a gun, and they were trying to carjack people coming in from work. He was young, and that bothered me the most to see that," she said.

Her case, though, isn't isolated. Across New Orleans, children commit crimes every day. FOX 8 obtained and analysed juvenile crime data from the past three years. In all, police arrested 2,980 juveniles.

Chief Michael Harrison says many commit burglaries.

"By and large, we're seeing juveniles participating in car burglaries, which is real big," he said. "They are out at night on the street, pulling on door handles, looking for cars that are unlocked, looking for cars that have visible valuables inside so they can smash the windows and take what's available," Harrison said.

When it comes to arrests for auto burglaries, the NOPD picked up 13 juveniles in 2013, 23 in 2014 and 25 last year. That's a total of 61 arrests. That number is half the amount of juveniles arrested for armed robbery. In the past three years, 121 juveniles were accused of robbing someone with a dangerous weapon.

"So, it's not all armed robberies, but a large portion of them are young juveniles who are preying on citizens who are vulnerable. What we're seeing is that it's not a large number of perpetrators, but a small number of perpetrators committing a large number of armed robberies and carjackings," Harrison said.

"My little nephew's girlfriend came in and said somebody put a gun to her head," said a Gentilly man who asked not to be identified.

When three teens on bikes tried to rob the woman, the man and his brother jumped into action.

"He was on a bike and he jumped off and broke off running," the man said. "Once he broke out running, I caught up with him in a vehicle. I made him drop his pants and empty his pockets. He had a pocket full of bullets," the man said.

They held the teen until police arrived.

"If you look at stats going back to 2013, 2014 and 2015, the number of kids we arrest with guns is above 50 every year. Kids that we arrest in possession of marijuana is about 50 every year. That's very alarming to us that you have kids using drugs and carrying guns. They're obviously illegal guns. They're not their guns," says Chief Harrison.

Police arrested 155 kids over the three year period for carrying guns; 183 kids were picked up for possession of marijuana.

"They think that's some sort of status elevations that they would have a gun and set themselves apart from others as a tough guy, but what they don't know is what lies ahead - prison or death," Harrison said.

The majority of juveniles arrested in New Orleans are between the ages of 14 and 16 years old. In the past three years, 42 juveniles were arrested under the age of 10.

"I saw two little kids. They were going back and forth, and I could tell they were looking in the back of the truck," another victim said.

A construction worker, who FOX 8 will not identify, didn't just witness a 6-year-old and an 11-year-old casing vehicles at the corner of Royal and Marigny, he decided to confront them. The kids, though, didn't seem afraid.

"That's when he turned around and started saying, 'Hey, what are you going to do? Mind your own business.' The little 6-year-old was in front, and he was coming towards me," the victim said.

He said the 6-year-old was the aggressor.

"The 11-year-old had a gun. He had his hand on a gun and a shirt wrapped around the gun. He never pointed the gun at me, but he kept saying, 'You better hush your mouth,'" the victim said.

When the man told the kids he'd called police, they took off. Both were later apprehended, and police turned the 6-year-old over to a parent.

"In the 6-year-old's eyes, he can do whatever he wants. 'I don't get in trouble. I don't go to jail.' I'm sure the same thing happened to this 11-year-old before. He feels like, 'I'll just go back home.' So why have fear because there's no consequence," the victim said.

Victims of these juvenile criminals are fed up and sad at the same time.

"They were kids, and I was wondering what kind of life, what kind of parenting or what could get a young child to do something like that?" Weathersby said.

Harrison said most of the juvenile offenders live in a single-parent home, some with grandparents or other family members who may not always be around to offer proper guidance.

"You'll see them go from truancy and cutting school and staying out past curfew to pulling on door handles and breaking into cars, to stealing cars. Then carjacking. So not every one, but you'll see that graduation effect with many of them," Harrison said.

Even though some victims find themselves fighting back against what they see as senseless crimes being committed by children, Harrison warns against it. He points out that juvenile criminals can be just as dangerous as adult offenders.

"These kids can be very brazen. We have video of that from around town," he said. "My advice to citizens and visitors - please, do not take matters into your own hands. Do what it takes to survive the encounter. Your life is never worth the property that you're going to give to them."

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