Young Guns: Juvenile crime takes emotional toll on devoted mentor

Guns: Juvenile crime takes emotional toll on devoted mentor

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - For 16 years, Jerome Temple, also known as DJ Jubilee, has mentored and coached at-risk kids on the playground of New Orleans' A.L. Davis Park. He says his drive in life is to help young athletes. But he acknowledges he's lost more than he's saved.

"I have 24 names that I keep in a book, and I try to remind the kids. I say, 'Look, you have 24 fallen comrades that played at this park,'" Jubilee says.

That's two dozen athletes, lost forever to violence. And so many others, he says, were locked up.

"They've got to look at themselves. We put the blame on the parents. We put the blame on the neighborhood. I've been hearing that for 50 years. I'm 50 years old. I'm tired of hearing that," Jubilee says.

FOX 8 News reviewed and analyzed two years of juvenile arrests in New Orleans to show the types of offenses committed, the age of the arrestees and their race. Those data were provided by NOPD, as reported to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting system.

In all of 2014 and 2015, police arrested juveniles for 2,028 offenses. Assaults, including aggravated assaults, top the list of offenses at 479 arrests. Burglary follows, at 267 arrests.

"By and large, we're seeing juveniles participating in car burglaries. They're out at night, on the street, pulling on door handles and looking for cars that are unlocked. They're looking for cars that have valuables inside where they can smash the windows and take what's readily available," says NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison.

One statistic that stands out is the age of some of these offenders. Over the two-year period, police picked up 11 kids under the age of 10. They're accused of committing four burglaries, two counts of carrying a weapon, two counts of theft and one each of simple assault, vandalism and aggravated assault.

"It brings up the fact that there is an outcry of proper supervision and lack of parenting skills," says John Penny, PhD, a criminologist at Southern University of New Orleans.

Penny says the numbers also reflect a progression in criminal activity as juveniles get older.

"It's recidivism. We're talking about people repeating the same offenses over and over again," Penny says.

There were 101 juveniles between 10 and 12 years old picked up during the two-year period. And the numbers grow as offenders get older.

"This is where the problem first starts. When they're 12, they see it. When they're 13, they think about it. When they're 14, they become it," Jubilee says.

Jubilee often starts working with kids around the age of 12 in Central City. "Their attitude is selfish. They can only think about themselves. If an old lady walks across the street and falls down, my instinct is to go pick her up. They are going to laugh. They're going to Instagram it and Snapchat it," Jubilee says.

He says juveniles know the difference between right and wrong, but still they make the choice to commit crimes.

"It's like these kids actually know. They know what's going on. Don't ever be fooled. Parents are being fooled," Jubilee says.

A disproportionate number of African American juveniles are being arrested. Police arrested black children 1,973 times in 2014 and 2015, compared to 55 arrests of white children.

"It seems alarming when you look at that disparity. But on the other hand, there are a number of reasons why that's happening," Penny says.

Penny says a large number of African Americans live in the inner city, where poverty and crime are rampant. A 2015 study by the Data Center found that 39 percent of children in New Orleans live in poverty – 17 points higher than the national average.

"When the police are called, they are normally called into the inner city where there's conflict. It's where there's a lot of complaining about things going on, and normally the people living in those types of situations are African Americans," Penny says.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2014 American Community Survey, the latest available, African Americans under the age of 18 make up about 72 percent of the juvenile population of New Orleans, compared to 21 percent of white youths.

"If these youngsters don't get the message right now, somebody is going to be killed tomorrow and the next day. It's going to start trickling down. People like me, I'm getting tired," Jubilee says.

The juvenile crime rate is taking its toll even on kids' most devoted advocates.

"I'm getting tired of my passion. My friends know I put a ton of passion in but I'm getting tired, you know. If something happens, I don't want to just walk away. You don't want that side of me because I can just walk away. I'm just so tired, man," Jubilee says.

This data set from NOPD does not include conviction rates. Many of those children arrested, depending on the offense, were released to parents or referred to welfare agencies or the probation department.

Copyright 2016 WVUE. All rights reserved.