SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Recently, more juveniles in Greene County are committing violent crimes.
Many of them are being charged in relation to gun violence, homicides, and serious assaults.
The Juvenile Justice Center is working alongside law enforcement to try to turn things around.
“I think within the last four or five months, we had, at one point in time, six or seven kids who were charged with some form of murder,” said Bill Prince with the center.
Prince said there has been a major increase in the amount of juveniles who get their hands on guns.
OzarksFirst spoke to one mother who lost her son, Jaiden Falls, to gun violence.
“It’s a struggle every day,” said Janine Newman, Jaiden’s mom. “I wake up crying, I go to bed crying.”
Last summer, Falls was shot outside of a Springfield convenience store.
The suspected shooter was 17 years old and will be tried as an adult.
If a juvenile is facing more serious charges, the courts are asked to certify the minor as an adult.
“In the past 10 years, altogether, in Greene County, we certified really less than 10 kids in 10 years,” said Prince. “And just in the last well, less than a year, we’re up to, I think, 12 or 13 now. So that’s a pretty significant jump.”
Newman said more effort needs to be put into stopping youth violence.
“They need to crack down on these juveniles and give them harsher sentences,” said Newman. “If they don’t, they’re just going to keep doing it. They think these guns are a toy. They don’t realize the aftermath and the consequences with themselves and with the families.”
The rising number of violent incidents is starting to become alarming to law enforcement officials.
“Over the last year or so, we’ve seen an increase in violent criminal activity from, I’ll call them a group of thugs,” said Williams. “There’s some juveniles, there’s some adults.”
Springfield Police Chief Paul Williams said his officers are cracking down on these groups.
“In the last nine months we’ve worked 33 cases on those individuals,” he said. “Only seven of those are still open. We’re able to solve and arrest and charge 17 people at the state level and five people at the federal level with violent activity involving guns.”
Officials said the goal is to intervene with these juveniles early before they commit more serious crimes.