Violent juvenile crime on the rise; parents recommended to take action

DENVER — Parents have seen the headlines recently; teens have been involved in several major crimes that captured the attention of many. In Arapahoe County, a group of teens are implicated in a carjacking at gunpoint and in Denver and Greenwood Village, teens are charged with a burglary ring with one fatality.

Police officials say they aren't surprised to see juveniles behind the crimes, even if parents say they're shocked.

In Arapahoe County, the group of teens allegedly took a vehicle from a commuter at gunpoint, and when confronted by police, the group ran on foot. Police gave chase, leading to a fatal officer involved shooting. Multiple 14- and 15-year-olds are now in custody for the crime. 

Denver Police Department detectives continue to work with Greenwood Village Police Department resources on the burglary ring. The mid-May string of burglaries and home invasions came to a head when one person inside a home lost his life at the hands of a gunman. Police conducted a massive search for the suspects, tracing down a 17-year-old on two charges of first-degree murder in California. Others were arrested in Colorado, along with a 15-year-old who is charged with multiple felonies in the case. 

Police in Aurora reported a Monday shooting by an underage male who fired shots into a police cruiser while officers were conducting an investigation in the Friendly Village Mobile Home Park. Police say the juvenile fired off several shots at the cruiser while an officer and the female were talking in the car. The youth ran away, but police took him into custody later on. No injuries were reported, but the youth faces charges of attempted first-degree murder.

"Kids are capable of all the things that adults are ... they're capable of the same actions," Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office Public Information Officer Julie Brooks said, noting she wouldn't be surprised if there had been an uptick in crimes committed by juveniles. 

In fact, violent crimes committed by juveniles is on the rise over the past few years, despite a peak in violent crime committed by juveniles in 1994. Data collected by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation shows in Colorado in 2013 there were 65.5 aggravated assault cases per 100,000 residents. That grew to 73.1 cases per 100,000 residents by 2015. 

When counting all violent crime committed by juveniles, including homicide, rape and robbery, there were 114.6 arrests per 100,000 residents in 2015, a slight uptick from 2013 and 2014.

Police across Colorado say they are concerned about the uptick and what numbers might say when data is released for 2016 and 2017. 

Brooks said it starts with parents, although there are many resources in every community to help children stay out of trouble. 

Anecdotally, Brooks explained summer months tend to see an even greater number of crimes committed by juveniles. She said it can be curbed when parents make time for kids and enroll them in summer programs. 

In Denver, an entire office is devoted to public safety and prevention of violent crime by juveniles. Denver Police say they work closely with the Office of Public Safety. 

Some programs the office lists as its programs for juveniles includes a program that explains the danger of drug and gun violence to children, an education series for youths and families, an engagement program that helps organize communities, a gang-targeted program that helps provide gang-affiliated youths with resources, an awareness campaign and a campaign focused on safety when walking to and from school. 

In Arapahoe County, as with many other counties in Colorado, school resource officers provide a law enforcement presence and an educating figure in schools that children can trust. Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office resource officers are in all middle and high schools, as well as multiple elementary schools.

Those officers are engaged in programs and focus on directly impacting student lives, but Brooks said there are many other groups out in most communities.

"Research what's available like local rec centers, other non-profit organizations. Big Brothers and Sisters, Girls on the Run, any number of programs provide outlets and activities during the day," Brooks said.

Enrolling youths in summer programs can help during times where parents are frequently at work, but Brooks says parents still have to be active and involved in the lives of their children.

"Just being aware and interacting with your kid can go a long way," Brooks said. "Just try to make sure you take 10 minutes to listen to their bad days, ask them about their friends, what they're doing. Any parent, as stressed as they are, they should all be able to ask questions just to make sure they don't have to go anywhere else." 

Those interested in learning more about programs in the City of Denver should reach out to city officials at (720) 913-4620.

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