KNOX COUNTY, Tenn — In 2021, the Knox County District Attorney's Office said more teenagers are committing violent crimes.
Of the 48 homicide victims this year, authorities said at least four were killed by juveniles. A number of them remain unsolved.
"We have seen an uptick in juvenile involvement from our most serious crimes, all the way down to our lesser crimes," District Attorney General Charme Allen said. "We're seeing a lot of juveniles with guns."
She said they tend to see bad outcomes whenever you mix juveniles and guns.
"Juveniles should not have guns, and yet they do," she said. "And, they're involved in a lot of our criminal activity."
In January, police said a 17-year-old accidentally shot and killed Justin Taylor.
In February, authorities said a 14-year-old and 16-year-old shot and killed Stanley Freeman Jr.
Authorities have charged two other teenagers in the October death of Junior Santiago.
Last week, a 16-year-old turned himself in for the death of J'Michael Dossett.
"They all start from the same place," Allen said. "And for some reason, some turned to the streets and turned to guns and turned to violence, and some don't."
In the more serious cases, like homicides, her office pushes for transfers to adult criminal court.
"If you lose a loved one, it really doesn't matter to you whether the person who took your loved one is 15 or 25," she said. "Your loved one is still gone forever."
To reverse this trend, Allen said it's all about prevention.
"We really need to invest more in trying to give those juveniles an alternative [and] mentors," she said. "The more that we can do to try to steer more of those juveniles in the right direction, the less crime we'll end up having on the back end."