Arrests of juveniles for violent crimes in Nashville soared 115 percent in the first four months of 2007, compared with same period last year, led by a sharp rise in robberies committed by kids, says The Tennessean. Some experts see the problem in dollars and cents. Nashville’s federal funding for a series of programs to deter youth crime decreased from $700,000 in 1998 to $100,000 today, said Debrah Stafford of the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth. Statewide, the funds dropped from $4 million to $750,000.
In Nashville, that means a probation officer could visit a youth offender twice a week instead of four times a week. It also means officers typically can visit the youth but not have time to counsel his or her family. Police Chief Ronal Serpas said more money and officers wouldn’t necessarily aid his efforts to deter youth crime. Stronger families would. “It all boils down to the very simple notion: Do I know where my kid is at 10 o’clock at night and do I know how they came home with several hundred dollars in cash in their pocket?” Serpas said. Youth services expert Jane Fleishman said teens’ problems are more complex than they used to be. Twenty years ago, she said, “there might be one problem – the father’s an addict, something like that. Now, it’s multiple difficulties, terrible financial difficulties, substance abuse on both sides of the family, history of abuse in both parents, traumatic losses, poverty.”