Special Report: Juvenile crimes spiking in the Chattahoochee Valley

(Source: Phenix City Police Department)
(Source: Phenix City Police Department)
(Source: Sharifa Jackson/WTVM)
(Source: Sharifa Jackson/WTVM)
(Source: Sharifa Jackson/WTVM)
(Source: Sharifa Jackson/WTVM)
(Source: Sharifa Jackson/WTVM)
(Source: Sharifa Jackson/WTVM)

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) – The epidemic is said to be nationwide— kids getting younger and their criminal offenses are getting worse.

This phenomenon is no different in the Chattahoochee Valley.

Surveillance video captures a home break in, the children seen in the video are just teens. This type of crime said to be one of the most popular offenses by juveniles.

"Kids feel like that's the thing that they have to do, that they have to turn to. And that's definitely not the answer," said Olivia Gauthier, a senior.

"There are things like trying to fit in, and some people will do whatever it takes," said Hannah Hess, a senior.

"It's real, it's totally real," said senior JJ Harrison.

According to the National Center for Juvenile Justice, nearly 1 million children between the ages 10 and 17 go through the juvenile court system every year.

But while that number is growing, the number of children committing offenses is getting younger, and their crimes? Almost unimaginable.

"Definitely, younger offenders committing more serious crimes has become a real problem over the last few years. Very serious crimes, very young children," said Juvenile Court Judge Warner Kennon.

Judge Warner Kennon, Juvenile Court Judge for Chattahoochee Valley says the county services thousands of juveniles every year.

In Columbus, teens and even more frightening— young children, committing what's known as the 7 deadly sins: armed robbery, rape, assaults, and even murder, among others.

Lieutenant Joyce Dent-Fitzpatrick, who works within the Youth Services Division at the Columbus Police Department says she goes through stacks of juvenile crime reports every morning.

"We have 10 and 11-year old's doing things you probably wouldn't have thought about 20 years ago criminal elements, they don't have an age limit. It's very disturbing," said Lt. Dent-Fitzpatrick.

A revolving and growing cycle for children within the system. Violent crimes like first-degree murder, kidnapping, and robbery placing kids as young as 13 in adult courtrooms.

A crucial reminder for teens and young children around the area. The challenge now changing focus to reversing the escalating cycle.

A wide range of special and targeted programs have been implemented within the Columbus Government center to tackle this problem.

A new Juvenile Drug Court began this year.

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