SPECIAL REPORT: Violent Youth Crime a Growing Concern

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Shots fired from an assault rifle-- the night is Wednesday, June 26, 2013. One man is dead-- witnesses say killed right in front of his fiancee. Four young suspects are arrested.

"With the violence it leads to more violence," said Donald Greydanus, a professor of Pediatrics at MSU.

Jets pizza near the Frandor shopping center-- it's Sunday November 3, 2013. Armed robbers enter and demand money. They beat the two women running the store and then run. Two teenagers are arrested.

"Violence perpetrates violence. Unfortunately that's what we're seeing," said Greydanus.

September 17, 2013: It's the middle of the afternoon and Sexton High School has released its students. Just blocks from campus, gun shots spray a quiet neighborhood -- four teens are injured. No one has been arrested -- but many speculate teenagers are involved. The investigation continues.

The crimes are just as violent, just as heartbreaking, but it's the faces that have changed. They're kids, some as young as 14-years-old.

"We've become a more violent society," said Judge George Economy, of the Ingham County Probate Court. "It's become scary to think that every time your child goes to school, you don't know which child is out there that may have decided to become super depressed and now has access to weapons."

The the new faces of crime are young people. They're teenagers-- like 16-year-old Valentino Stewart, 17-year-old Devin Caudill and 18-year-old Ladaysha Moore. They're kids involved in everything from stealing to shootings.

"The statistics are--not only in this area but around the country, just alarming," said Dr. Greydanus. "If you collect data and you look at the data, you get numb--you get so numb you can't talk anymore."

The number of juveniles petitioned for crimes in Ingham County has dramatically increased from 577 cases in 2011, to 612 cases in 2012.
In 2013 there were more than 850 cases. That's a 48 percent increase in just two years.

"The number of juveniles who are getting charged as adults because of the nature of the crime they commit or the nature of their record is not included in these numbers," said Stuart Dunnings III, the Ingham County Prosecuting Attorney.

So what's driving all this crime? Those closest to the criminals say it's over exposure to violence and a lack of parenting.

"Being a parent is difficult, and what I'm finding is the fact that too many parents are shirking their responsibility, and it crosses socio-economic barriers," said Judge Economy.

Rich or poor, too many parents are spending their time away from the kids who need it most-- either at the office, out of the house or trapped in drugs and alcohol.

Judge Economy wishes there were a way to hold parents responsible.

"What should we do to the parent, and say 'Look, you didn't take the time to do the most important job you have to do'--raising your child. I think there should be some accountability," said Judge Economy.

"Certainly gun violence is not going to tolerated," said Chief Mike Yankowski, of the Lansing Police Department. He just completed his first year as Chief.

He said the department is shifting resources to the hardest hit areas and implementing several new programs to both prevent crime and catch those who do break the law. Still, he said it's going to take more, including help from the entire community.

"We're asking mentors, churches, organizations, parks and rec programs, boys and girls clubs; we all play a role in keeping our youth safe in this community," said Yankowski

Dr. Greydanus warns that even if your kids are fine, they could still be affected.

"Maybe you're safe and secure in your nice, beautiful home or big home and your life is great, but then someone comes along and interferes with your child and ruins your life-- ruins that persons life. So we're all in this together," said Greydanus.

We all need to help kids succeed before they turn to crime.

"I remember when I was a little boy," said Judge Economy. "If little George Economy got in trouble down at the end of the block or did something, Mrs. Smith wasn't beyond calling Mrs. Economy and saying 'You know what your son is doing...' By the time I got home, I was about to get an ear full from my mother. That wasn't all bad. You knew that there were a lot of eyes watching you so you'd better be on your ps and qs."

Judge Economy said political correctness is in-part to blame. People need to be willing to tell other parents when they see their kids misbehave.

"If we find you with a gun, or if we find that you are responsible for discharging a weapon in the the city--let alone causing damage to property, aggravated assault or more worse, killing another individual--we're going to come after you with all available resources and we're going to hold you responsible to the highest levels that we can," said Lansing Police Chief Yankowski.

Friday the Lansing Police Department is set to announce more changes in policy that are designed to improve catching criminals and better allocate resources.

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