N.O. mentors: recent juvenile arrests show need for help

Juvenile Crime, Where Are Your Kids

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - In the last week, New Orleans Police have arrested 10 juveniles for violent crimes.

On Thursday, Police Superintendent Michael Harrison asked parents to step up when dealing with children.

But others who work with at-risk youth say the arrests show the glaring need to get children off the street and into programs.

Two young people shot at a man with a paintball gun in the 100 block of Berkley on Wednesday. It is scenes like this in Algiers that make residents frightened of juveniles wandering the streets.

But the violent acts police say young men and women are committing get more brazen than that.

"They were kids. They were young 16-17 years old," says one victim of a recent armed robbery. "They jumped out of the vehicle with weapons and they asked for all of our belongings and we gave them everything we had."

That victim says two teens robbed him in the Carrollton neighborhood last week.

The New Orleans Police Department asks parents to step up.

"We want parents to take the responsibility to make sure they know where their children are where they are supposed to be home."

"The kids are just in environments where most of us can't relate. When you have to steal to eat at night," says Peter Hamilton, a board member for Son of a Saint.

Son of a Saint is an organization that helps at-risk youth.

Hamilton says an overwhelming majority of children don't commit crimes. But, he believes often times children of New Orleans are a product of their environment without much parental guidance and lacking opportunities.

"These kids are living adult lives at 13-years-old and that shouldn't happen," says Hamilton. "A majority of them are single parent household where the father is not there, whether he is incarcerated, he's deceased from violence or something like that. These mentors and Sonny are like their father. They are stepping in a really being the father to these kids they don't have."

Yasin Pierce grew up in the projects. He now mentors children at the youth empowerment project in Central City.

"I've seen dead bodies. I've seen shootings everyday. My friends killed on the streets and I don't want that to happen to these kids" says Pierce. "I want to show them you can be a teacher, you can be a doctor. You don't have to be a drug dealer."

Those on the front lines of guiding young people away from the violent path believe more help is needed to turn the tide.

"If we see the fellow members of our city, especially the young people in the city who are suffering and making some of those bad choices and going down the wrong path, we all need to help," says Darrin McCall.

"Instead of sitting at home and complaining about it, get up and help out," says Hamilton. "Get involved and look if you don't have the money that's fine. Just get involved."

Everyone agrees that there is no excuse for anyone to commit a violent crime.

According to the institute for women and ethnic studies, nearly 40 percent of children in the city, 11-years-old to 15-years-old live in poverty. And more than half have experienced the murder of someone close to them.

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