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Juvenile offenders committing crimes at record highs, Crime Commission reports

The crime commission said that 40% of the delinquency complaint cases that were handled up to September of this year involved juveniles who were repeat offenders.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Memphis Shelby County Crime Commission released new information about crimes committed by juveniles, revealing that in the last year, there was a 42% increase in the number of juveniles charged with crimes and a 29% increase in the number of juveniles who were charged for delinquent acts.

Throughout the year, community leaders and citizens have expressed concern about safety, debating whether reinforcing a curfew for people under the age of 18 would help law enforcement better manage inner-city crime, especially considering the rise of crimes committed by teen offenders.

According to the crime commission’s report, the leading violent crimes that juveniles are charged with the most include aggravated assault, carjacking, and aggravated robbery.

Reports show that there have been 151 aggravated assault charges, 124 carjacking charges, and 96 aggravated robbery charges this year.

The crime commission also revealed that 40% of the delinquency complaint cases that were handled up to September of this year involved juveniles who were repeat offenders, with 26% of those offenders having a history of committing violent criminal acts.

Many have argued that the Shelby County judicial system, as well as the juvenile court system has been ineffective in punishing criminals, arguing that the city handles crime and sentencing for criminals lightly, allowing criminals to take advantage of plea deals that afford them lesser sentences.

In fact, proper sentencing, and harsh punishment for convicted criminals was one of the biggest discussions during the August Shelby County Primary elections in May as voters decided whether to reinstate from Shelby Count District Attorney Amy Weirich or start fresh with Steve Mulroy.

Throughout the campaign for district attorney, Mulroy doubled down on his commitment to building a judicial system centered around rehabilitation, stressing that most criminals get out of jail, failure to provide resources for those who are released after serving time in jail creates repeat offenders.

Just one month after Mulroy’s victory over Weirich in the race for district attorney, Memphis was jarred by the kidnapping and killing of a Memphis mother, and days later by a mobile mass shooting.

The mobile mass shooting echoed the community’s concerns about crimes committed by juveniles and repeat offenders. 

The alleged suspect in the mass shooting, Ezekiel Kelly, is just 19 years old, and he, like the suspect in the Eliza Fletcher murder and kidnapping case, was a repeat offender.

He was released from jail early in March of this year, only serving two years of his three-year sentence for a non-related crime where he was convicted of attempted murder at just 17 years old in 2020.

Community leaders and citizens argued that had Kelly not been released from jail early, he would not have been able to commit the random act of violence that too the lives of three people and injured three others.

Although Mulroy was not the acting district attorney at the time that Kelly was released from jail in March, the effects of his release came down hard, as Mulroy was left to deal with the damage the September mobile mass shooting caused on the Bluff City.  

The mass shooting was another reminder that the judicial system and the Shelby County Juvenile court system is in desperate need of change.

Since taking office in September, Mulroy said he's hired new prosecutors to make his office more diverse and established cold case and justice review units to tackle cases of wrongful convictions or sentencing.

RELATED: Shelby County District Attorney hires new ADAs and non-attorney staff

Mulroy said that his strategy to reduce crime includes investing more money in prisons, placing rehabilitation efforts at the top of his list.

Although Mulroy has made changes that he says will result in improved policies and better handling of criminal court cases, the crime commission said the responsibility of supervising juvenile criminal offenders will weigh heavy on citizens in the community.

RELATED: Here's how Shelby County D.A. Steve Mulroy plans to fight crime and make communities safer

”The State of Tennessee has very limited space in secure, adequate residential facilities for juveniles found to have committed violent delinquent acts,” the crime commission said. “Even if a decision is made to construct additional facilities and properly staff them, it will take years for them to be operational. Most violent juvenile offenders will remain under some form of community supervision.”

The crime commission called the increase of juvenile crime an “epidemic”, one that is straining the community, and making people in it feel unsafe.

The commission said that it is critical for the Safe Community Action Plan to come up with a system that provides “intensive supervision and appropriate treatment” for juveniles criminals who are left under community supervision rather than held in juvenile correction centers.

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