CLEVELAND — Three people were arrested in the shooting death of Cleveland Police Detective James Skernivitz, investigators said two of the arrested were juveniles, ages 17 and 15.
The tragic shooting left local agencies that fight to keep Northeast Ohio juveniles on the right path saddened and feeling a sense of frustration.
Judge Michael Ryan with the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court told News 5 homicide cases involving juveniles have declined in recent years but said that's not the case when it comes to other serious crimes involving teens and guns.
Ryan said he works to keep teens who have committed serious crimes in the juvenile justice system, because it allows teens to stay in school, and provides more focused rehabilitation programs.
However, Ryan said in some cases, Ohio law leaves juveniles too often facing a mandatory bind-over to adult court.
“Kids are charged with aggravated robbery with gun specifications, or burglary with gun specifications, rape offenses,” Ryan said.
“There are just so many advantages being in the juvenile justice system, over the adult system.”
“There are multiple systemic therapies, we do functional family therapy as well.”
"We have the ability to send kids to Abraxas, which deals with kids who have substance abuse issues.”
“If we can get the families to buy into the change for these young people, I think it leads to better outcomes.”
Kevin Bell, who has worked for more than 20 years with Peace in the Hood Outreach, told News 5 federal funding cuts have halted many local juvenile outreach efforts.
“You just can’t lock your way up and out of this problem,” Bell said.
“You can arrest all the young people you want, and that’s sending a message to the next group of young people, we’re going to go right back out here.”
“You need to find some way to create job opportunities, educational opportunities, opportunities for the families, you have a lot of broken homes.”
“It’s not an east side thing, a west side thing, a black or a white thing. This is a mentality issue.”
“If an adult can encourage a young person to be part of crime, why can’t you encourage them to be part of something positive.”
Ken Wood with the Boys and Girls Club of Northeast Ohio said its affiliate agency, the Cleveland Peacemakers Alliance, gives teens a safe place and deals with gang violence.
“It’s extremely important for kids to have a safe place to go,” Wood said.
“How sad it is that we go through this ritual and this horrible experience on a daily basis in this city.”
"Cleveland Peacemakers Alliance does street outreach, the organization does violence prevention from the hospitals, in other words, stopping retaliation.”
Ryan provided News 5 with a list of organizations families can connect with that can provide services to assist them, and reduce the probability of their children interacting with the Juvenile Justice System.