SANDY SPRINGS, Ga. - As local leaders around Fulton County share their frustrations over the rise in violent crimes among juvenile criminals, Sandy Springs Police told FOX 5 News, the problem is creeping north of Atlanta into the northern Metro suburbs.
Police said the number of crimes committed by juveniles has gone up, in recent years, and repeat juvenile offenders have become a significant problem.
“Five of our top offenders, as far as juveniles’ go- their ages range from 13 to 16. There’s around a hundred charges just for those five individuals,” said Captain Mike Lindstrom with Sandy Springs Police, who said it’s frustrating for officers and their community to see repeat offenders return to the streets, days after an arrest.
“They’re driving automobiles at 14 years old. They’re stealing cars. They’re committing adult-like crimes. But then we’re being told, they’re not mature enough to be treated as such,” Lindstrom said.
As law enforcement leaders from around Fulton County have voiced concerns over teenage criminals, lawmakers are working to amend state law to allow repeat juvenile offenders to be detained longer at the Fulton County Youth Detention Center, and to expand the scope of who authorities can detain.
While juveniles can be detained after a certain number of arrests, or very violent crimes, any juveniles deemed “incompetent”-- whether through mental or emotional disabilities, learning disabilities, illiteracy or other issues - are not allowed to be detained, even if the juveniles are repeat offenders.
“There’s a hole in the law,” said State Representative Wendell Willard of Sandy Springs, who is working to propose a bill in the House to amend state law. “Juveniles that are determined to be incompetent, the courts cannot detain that child, for more than five days,” State Rep. Willard said.
Currently, there is no rehabilitation center to house violent and unstable juvenile offenders, who may need mental or emotional help. State Rep. Willard said state funding must be allocated to create that center.
“We don’t really have a place anymore in Georgia where we can take an incompetent child who is... a danger either to himself or the community,” State Rep. Willard said.
Chief Judge Bradley Boyd of the Fulton County Juvenile Justice System said Governor Nathan Deal’s Council on Criminal Justice Reform is also working to address state law language to better detain repeat offenders.