DA says crimes among juveniles on the rise, holding parents accountable not easy
BATON ROUGE - As Baton Rouge is set to surpass last year's record murder rate, prosecutors handling juvenile cases in East Baton Rouge Parish are also watching cases involving juveniles committing heinous crimes increase.
In other states, District Attorney Hillar Moore said parents can be held criminally liable for their children's actions. However, in Louisiana parents typically can only be held accountable for negligent supervision.
A 16-year-old was arrested this week, accused in the shooting death of 20-year-old Keishune Thomas. Investigators said the teen went to meet up with Thomas for a drug transaction, and that's when he allegedly shot and robbed him. When detectives conducted a search on his house, they found drugs, four guns and cash. One of the guns that was seized was tested by the Louisiana State Police Crime Lab and matched the gun used in the shooting that killed Thomas.
"There's a lot of allegations right now involving juveniles," Moore said. "A lot of arrests involving juveniles and violent crimes and guns. That's the wrong thing to be happening with our young children."
The WBRZ Investigative Unit checked and found the number of juveniles arrested for murder this year alone is staggering. Eight separate juveniles are accused of heinous crimes where someone was either killed or a victim was shot and survived. Among the high-profile shootings where teens were arrested: the College Drive apartment complex pool shooting, the IHOP shooting on Siegen Lane, and a father shot in Zachary over the weekend.
This month, a teenager was also arrested for carjacking a nurse at Our Lady of the Lake. She was not hurt.
"We need to make sure we know who is supervising these kids," Moore said. "If you're a parent, who are they hanging with? Do they have a gun? Why would they have a gun, and where did the gun come from?"
According to District Attorney Hillar Moore, the juvenile system is not set up to handle the type of crimes that juveniles are committing these days. It's creating backlogs in the system and a nightmare for the juvenile prosecutors having to handle those cases. When a minor is convicted in juvenile court, their sentence ends at age 21 for extremely violent offenses like murder. But, if they're tried as adults they'd face adult penalties. Making that decision is not easy, the district attorney says.
"The answer is so difficult and complex," Moore said. "Try to look at the history of the kid. Does he have previous actions taken against him. Has he been through the court system. What did he do in this particular occasion? What's the input from the family? What's the input from the victim? What does the community want? But, the bottom line is we will do what is in the best interest of public safety."
Moore said there's a point where there's no more hope. It's why interventions need to happen now.
"When I started this job, I thought when we could get to a child before he reached 12 or 13 years old we could change the child," Moore said. "My years have gone down further and further as I've seen things. Now I'm at a point where I think prenatal. We have to start planning on this child's future, what's going to be set up for the child, school, feeding, all the basic things."
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