MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A Shelby County Juvenile Court Judge is sounding the alarm to parents and the public, as more youth are now detained on murder charges than ever before.
It comes following the news of 13-year-olds charged in separate shootings of other children the past two weeks, including Sunday in Frayser.
"The numbers are just ridiculously high. We've never seen that many children come in for murder charges here," Shelby County Juvenile Court Judge Dan Michael said.
As of Monday, a record-high 19 juveniles in Shelby County are charged with either murder or attempted murder, out of the 68 total in custody.
"It's just horrible, just horrible," Judge Michael added.
He said many juveniles charged with murder are unlawfully carrying guns after stealing them or getting them from an adult. That puts others in jeopardy.
"A gun in the hands of a 15-year-old is dangerous. Children are impulsive and that impulse to pull the trigger can take a life," Judge Michael said.
That's why Judge Michael offered a message to parents.
"Know where your children are, know who their friends are, make sure that you vet their friends," Judge Michael said.
Typically, Judge Michael said he grants around 40% of motions by prosecutors to try juveniles who are charged with murder as adults.
He said things are different now, with a vast majority of juveniles at risk of being moved and put into the adult system to face their charges.
"The hardest docket in this court is the transfer docket and having to say to a young adult, 'I can't help you anymore.' It's heartbreaking," Judge Michael said.
He's still encouraged by recent results of the youth intervention program 901 Bloc Squad and the Ceasefire program to cut down on repeat juvenile offenders.
He's hopeful more emphasis will soon be in certain middle schools.
"If you don't address the underlying issues, you are not going to solve the problem. You are not going to know when that 16-year-old has a gun. You are only going to find out after he uses it," Judge Michael said.
That juvenile court judge said the uptick in violent juvenile crime of late isn't exclusive to the Memphis area, but communities large and small across America.
Fourteen Shelby County juveniles are also currently charged in carjacking cases.