OPINION: There’s a teen violence tsunami. Or is there?

March 21, 2022 Atlanta: A 15-year-old boy was shot Monday morning, March 21, 2022 at a southwest Atlanta apartment complex, police said. The shooting happened around 10:30 a.m. at Oakland City West End apartments in the 1100 block of Oakland Lane. The teen was shot in the arm and the bullet went into his stomach after two men in a white Kia pulled up next to him, Sgt. Michael Young with the Atlanta police aggravated assault unit said. ÒThe gentleman was outside with his friends hanging out when a white vehicle, a Kia, pulled up, asked him a question, then an argument ensued and then (someone in) the white Kia shot the young man,Ó Young said. The teen, who is from Clayton County, was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital and is in surgery in critical condition, Young said. Police do not know what the shooter asked the teen or if the two suspects knew the victim. Minnie Pearl, who has lived at the apartment complex for six years, said she called 911 as soon as she heard a gunshot and spotted the bleeding victim. ÒI heard a shot and I heard somebody scream,Ó she said. ÒI saw a child, a kid lying on the floor bleeding. And when I walked over, I seen the blood coming from his arm.Ó But Monday morningÕs scene is nothing out of the ordinary for Pearl, who said there was another shooting two weeks ago and that gunshots are background noise. ÒWe go through this every day. We see this every day,Ó Pearl said. ÒThey shoot all throughout the night, the day, broad daylight, 12 oÕclock at night, and it be right there by my window.Ó Another neighbor, Maria Parker, said more security in the area could curb the frequent gun violence, which she says prevents children from being able to play outside. Police did not release any information about the suspects but said they are looking through camera footage in hopes that it caught the incident. Young said authorities are trying to determine if the victim is still in school. MondayÕs victim is one at least six teens shot in metro Atlanta this year. Earlier in March, 16-year-old Joshua Adetunji died after being shot near the Atlanta Fair on its opening weekend. A 14-year-old and 19-year-old were also injured in the incident. In late January, 17-year-old Havord Head was fatally shot at The Commons apartments on Middleton Road. Investigators said they believed the shooting stemmed from a robbery involving narcotics. Earlier that month, 15-year-old Kelvice Roberson Jr. was shot and killed at the Dunbar Neighborhood Center along Windsor Street. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

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March 21, 2022 Atlanta: A 15-year-old boy was shot Monday morning, March 21, 2022 at a southwest Atlanta apartment complex, police said. The shooting happened around 10:30 a.m. at Oakland City West End apartments in the 1100 block of Oakland Lane. The teen was shot in the arm and the bullet went into his stomach after two men in a white Kia pulled up next to him, Sgt. Michael Young with the Atlanta police aggravated assault unit said. ÒThe gentleman was outside with his friends hanging out when a white vehicle, a Kia, pulled up, asked him a question, then an argument ensued and then (someone in) the white Kia shot the young man,Ó Young said. The teen, who is from Clayton County, was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital and is in surgery in critical condition, Young said. Police do not know what the shooter asked the teen or if the two suspects knew the victim. Minnie Pearl, who has lived at the apartment complex for six years, said she called 911 as soon as she heard a gunshot and spotted the bleeding victim. ÒI heard a shot and I heard somebody scream,Ó she said. ÒI saw a child, a kid lying on the floor bleeding. And when I walked over, I seen the blood coming from his arm.Ó But Monday morningÕs scene is nothing out of the ordinary for Pearl, who said there was another shooting two weeks ago and that gunshots are background noise. ÒWe go through this every day. We see this every day,Ó Pearl said. ÒThey shoot all throughout the night, the day, broad daylight, 12 oÕclock at night, and it be right there by my window.Ó Another neighbor, Maria Parker, said more security in the area could curb the frequent gun violence, which she says prevents children from being able to play outside. Police did not release any information about the suspects but said they are looking through camera footage in hopes that it caught the incident. Young said authorities are trying to determine if the victim is still in school. MondayÕs victim is one at least six teens shot in metro Atlanta this year. Earlier in March, 16-year-old Joshua Adetunji died after being shot near the Atlanta Fair on its opening weekend. A 14-year-old and 19-year-old were also injured in the incident. In late January, 17-year-old Havord Head was fatally shot at The Commons apartments on Middleton Road. Investigators said they believed the shooting stemmed from a robbery involving narcotics. Earlier that month, 15-year-old Kelvice Roberson Jr. was shot and killed at the Dunbar Neighborhood Center along Windsor Street. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

Recently, there’s been a scary wave of youthful culprits committing very adult crimes in public places.

Last week, there was a shootout at a busy corner near the Ferris Wheel in downtown. There was a youthful thief pointing his pistol at a concerned citizen video-taping him on the Beltline.

Last month, a 16-year old was killed near the Atlanta Fair. Three teens were arrested.

A frustrated Atlanta Police Department has something to say about this: Enough!

In an impassioned plea on Facebook, the department wondered where were all the sign-waving advocates after these incidents? And, of course, where are the parents?

That question is often muttered whenever a 15-year-old alleged carjacker shows up on the news.

“APD wants to know, where is the save-the-juveniles’ cavalry?” the APD wondered. “Where are all the voices who care so much about broken kids and community safety? Where are the concerned parents and family members while these kids are running the streets late into the night?”

But when a cop shoots or roughs up someone, the APD wrote, “the family will show an outpouring of love for the suspect, there will be heavy criticism of the police, and a demand for justice for misunderstood ‘Johnny.’ “

There were critics of that palpable expression of frustration. Cops and 16-year-old gun wavers don’t carry the same responsibility and should not be held to the same standard, they argued. And the public reaction ranged from calls for more outreach programs to getting tougher and locking up the little miscreants.

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March 21, 2022 Atlanta: A 15-year-old boy was shot Monday morning, March 21, 2022 at a southwest Atlanta apartment complex, police said. The shooting happened around 10:30 a.m. at Oakland City West End apartments in the 1100 block of Oakland Lane. The teen was shot in the arm and the bullet went into his stomach after two men in a white Kia pulled up next to him, Sgt. Michael Young with the Atlanta police aggravated assault unit said. “The gentleman was outside with his friends hanging out when a white vehicle, a Kia, pulled up, asked him a question, then an argument ensued and then (someone in) the white Kia shot the young man,” Young said. The teen, who is from Clayton County, was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital and is in surgery in critical condition, Young said. Police do not know what the shooter asked the teen or if the two suspects knew the victim. Minnie Pearl, who has lived at the apartment complex for six years, said she called 911 as soon as she heard a gunshot and spotted the bleeding victim. “I heard a shot and I heard somebody scream,” she said. “I saw a child, a kid lying on the floor bleeding. And when I walked over, I seen the blood coming from his arm.” But Monday morning’s scene is nothing out of the ordinary for Pearl, who said there was another shooting two weeks ago and that gunshots are background noise. “We go through this every day. We see this every day,” Pearl said. “They shoot all throughout the night, the day, broad daylight, 12 o’clock at night, and it be right there by my window.” Another neighbor, Maria Parker, said more security in the area could curb the frequent gun violence, which she says prevents children from being able to play outside. Police did not release any information about the suspects but said they are looking through camera footage in hopes that it caught the incident. Young said authorities are trying to determine if the victim is still in school. Monday’s victim is one at least six teens shot in metro Atlanta this year. Earlier in March, 16-year-old Joshua Adetunji died after being shot near the Atlanta Fair on its opening weekend. A 14-year-old and 19-year-old were also injured in the incident. In late January, 17-year-old Havord Head was fatally shot at The Commons apartments on Middleton Road. Investigators said they believed the shooting stemmed from a robbery involving narcotics. Earlier that month, 15-year-old Kelvice Roberson Jr. was shot and killed at the Dunbar Neighborhood Center along Windsor Street. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

March 21, 2022 Atlanta: A 15-year-old boy was shot Monday morning, March 21, 2022 at a southwest Atlanta apartment complex, police said. The shooting happened around 10:30 a.m. at Oakland City West End apartments in the 1100 block of Oakland Lane. The teen was shot in the arm and the bullet went into his stomach after two men in a white Kia pulled up next to him, Sgt. Michael Young with the Atlanta police aggravated assault unit said. “The gentleman was outside with his friends hanging out when a white vehicle, a Kia, pulled up, asked him a question, then an argument ensued and then (someone in) the white Kia shot the young man,” Young said. The teen, who is from Clayton County, was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital and is in surgery in critical condition, Young said. Police do not know what the shooter asked the teen or if the two suspects knew the victim. Minnie Pearl, who has lived at the apartment complex for six years, said she called 911 as soon as she heard a gunshot and spotted the bleeding victim. “I heard a shot and I heard somebody scream,” she said. “I saw a child, a kid lying on the floor bleeding. And when I walked over, I seen the blood coming from his arm.” But Monday morning’s scene is nothing out of the ordinary for Pearl, who said there was another shooting two weeks ago and that gunshots are background noise. “We go through this every day. We see this every day,” Pearl said. “They shoot all throughout the night, the day, broad daylight, 12 o’clock at night, and it be right there by my window.” Another neighbor, Maria Parker, said more security in the area could curb the frequent gun violence, which she says prevents children from being able to play outside. Police did not release any information about the suspects but said they are looking through camera footage in hopes that it caught the incident. Young said authorities are trying to determine if the victim is still in school. Monday’s victim is one at least six teens shot in metro Atlanta this year. Earlier in March, 16-year-old Joshua Adetunji died after being shot near the Atlanta Fair on its opening weekend. A 14-year-old and 19-year-old were also injured in the incident. In late January, 17-year-old Havord Head was fatally shot at The Commons apartments on Middleton Road. Investigators said they believed the shooting stemmed from a robbery involving narcotics. Earlier that month, 15-year-old Kelvice Roberson Jr. was shot and killed at the Dunbar Neighborhood Center along Windsor Street. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

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March 21, 2022 Atlanta: A 15-year-old boy was shot Monday morning, March 21, 2022 at a southwest Atlanta apartment complex, police said. The shooting happened around 10:30 a.m. at Oakland City West End apartments in the 1100 block of Oakland Lane. The teen was shot in the arm and the bullet went into his stomach after two men in a white Kia pulled up next to him, Sgt. Michael Young with the Atlanta police aggravated assault unit said. “The gentleman was outside with his friends hanging out when a white vehicle, a Kia, pulled up, asked him a question, then an argument ensued and then (someone in) the white Kia shot the young man,” Young said. The teen, who is from Clayton County, was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital and is in surgery in critical condition, Young said. Police do not know what the shooter asked the teen or if the two suspects knew the victim. Minnie Pearl, who has lived at the apartment complex for six years, said she called 911 as soon as she heard a gunshot and spotted the bleeding victim. “I heard a shot and I heard somebody scream,” she said. “I saw a child, a kid lying on the floor bleeding. And when I walked over, I seen the blood coming from his arm.” But Monday morning’s scene is nothing out of the ordinary for Pearl, who said there was another shooting two weeks ago and that gunshots are background noise. “We go through this every day. We see this every day,” Pearl said. “They shoot all throughout the night, the day, broad daylight, 12 o’clock at night, and it be right there by my window.” Another neighbor, Maria Parker, said more security in the area could curb the frequent gun violence, which she says prevents children from being able to play outside. Police did not release any information about the suspects but said they are looking through camera footage in hopes that it caught the incident. Young said authorities are trying to determine if the victim is still in school. Monday’s victim is one at least six teens shot in metro Atlanta this year. Earlier in March, 16-year-old Joshua Adetunji died after being shot near the Atlanta Fair on its opening weekend. A 14-year-old and 19-year-old were also injured in the incident. In late January, 17-year-old Havord Head was fatally shot at The Commons apartments on Middleton Road. Investigators said they believed the shooting stemmed from a robbery involving narcotics. Earlier that month, 15-year-old Kelvice Roberson Jr. was shot and killed at the Dunbar Neighborhood Center along Windsor Street. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

In an answer to the query, “Where are all the voices who care so much about broken kids?” KaCey Venning, a Vine City resident went on Facebook, raised her hand and said, “Here I am!”

“We’ve been crying for help,” she said in a video. “Very rarely are we asked to come to the table.”

I’ve spoken with Venning before. Two years ago, she and an Marc KD Boyd, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps, started a small org called “HEY!” (Helping Empower Youth.) It was the first summer of the pandemic when the “Waterboyz” were causing a stir and the two adults stepped up to try and give the teens some life focus. They’re still at it.

As to the question, where are the parents? Venning said some are there, trying, but are overwhelmed themselves by trying to make it financially. Their kids are out there on the streets without supervision or direction. Others barely see their parents. “They are basically raising themselves with undeveloped and immature minds,” she said.

That environment is an incubator for lousy decisions. She and Boyd mentor about 25 teens, often from their home. Relationships and bonds have been forged. Sometimes the kids will call at 2 a.m. when they’re overwhelmed by some crisis or are heading for trouble. Impulse control in teens is often iffy. With someone living without structure? It can be virtually nonexistent.

Their friends might want to go bowling or to see a movie. Next thing you know, they’re off doing something stupid for get a few bucks. “They can throw their lives away for $50,” Venning said.

Her goal is to meet with them with some frequency so that bad decision point doesn’t happen.

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Marc KD Boyd gives instructions to water sellers at the corner of Northside Drive and Joseph E. Boone Blvd as Sheldon Peoples, 16, hustles to the safety of the sidewalk. Photo by Bill Torpy

Credit: Bill Torpy

Marc KD Boyd gives instructions to water sellers at the corner of Northside Drive and Joseph E. Boone Blvd as Sheldon Peoples, 16, hustles to the safety of the sidewalk. Photo by Bill Torpy

Credit: Bill Torpy

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Marc KD Boyd gives instructions to water sellers at the corner of Northside Drive and Joseph E. Boone Blvd as Sheldon Peoples, 16, hustles to the safety of the sidewalk. Photo by Bill Torpy

Credit: Bill Torpy

Credit: Bill Torpy

Tyrone Dennis is raising his hand, too. In 2020, Dennis, a gang-crimes cop with 18 years at APD, left the force saying the atmosphere was poisonous to be an officer. He returned to his native St. Louis to head up security at a school.

Now, he’d like to return to Atlanta to continue the kind of work he did with at-risk youth and community outreach. He said he has communicated with Mayor Andre Dickens trying to sell him on that idea.

“I told the mayor you have to give officers the power to do their jobs,” he said. “The public wants aggressive officers who fight crime but will treat people with respect.”

With the closure of school and athletic and community programs, older gang members have had an opportunity to sell the idea of kinship to teens.

“It’s easy to get in a gang; it’s hard to get out,” Dennis said. Still, persuading them to resist is often a tough sell, he said. “It’s hard to see a future when you don’t see anyone around you with a future.”

Tom Rawlings, a former juvenile judge who later headed DFCS, understands APD’s frustration. “They’re acknowledging they can’t solve it,” he said.

Rawlings said juvenile justice reforms in the late 1990s and early 2000s, with more services, counseling and intensive monitoring of troubled youth, did wonders.

I know, I know, you’re probably reading this and saying, ”Gawd, I’m tired of this soft-on-crime BS.”

caption arrowCaption
Tyrone Dennis leads a discussion with community members at Pro Cuts ATL, a barber shop off Martin Luther King in Atlanta. The Investigator with the Atlanta Police Department is trying to build better relations between cops and the community with informal gatherings called "Clippers & Cops," when there is no cause for confrontation. (Photo by Phil Skinner)

Credit: Phil Skinner

Tyrone Dennis leads a discussion with community members at Pro Cuts ATL, a barber shop off Martin Luther King in Atlanta. The Investigator with the Atlanta Police Department is trying to build better relations between cops and the community with informal gatherings called "Clippers & Cops," when there is no cause for confrontation.  (Photo by Phil Skinner)

Credit: Phil Skinner

caption arrowCaption
Tyrone Dennis leads a discussion with community members at Pro Cuts ATL, a barber shop off Martin Luther King in Atlanta. The Investigator with the Atlanta Police Department is trying to build better relations between cops and the community with informal gatherings called "Clippers & Cops," when there is no cause for confrontation. (Photo by Phil Skinner)

Credit: Phil Skinner

Credit: Phil Skinner

Back in the early 1990s, as the crack epidemic raged, some “experts” worried that a generation of crack babies would have chemically stunted brains and would grow up to “Super Predators.” The future was to be a frightening place.

And then what happened? Crime dropped. Markedly.

According to federal crime stats, in 1991 there were 3,320 juveniles arrested for murder or manslaughter charges. Sixteen years later, in 2007, when crack kids were of driving age, there were 1,340 juveniles arrested on the same charges, a 60% drop. In 2019, that number went down to 860. Arrests for other violent crimes saw similar reductions.

So, no, it’s not worse than it’s ever been. You just see more stuff on your Nextdoor app.

Violent crimes by juveniles seem to be inching up. I asked APD for stats on juvenile arrests for the past three years. It turns out the number of youths arrested for all crimes — including violent offenses — in the first four months of this year are down compared to the last two.

Again, this goes against all we seem to know.

“Juvenile justice reform has been good,” said Rawlings. “But a spike like this, or the perception of a spike, can lead to legislation moving in the other direction.”

It’s like the tides of history.

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