“Right now, our community is under siege by juvenile violence,” Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Mike O’Malley told News 5 on Wednesday.
Monday night, shots were fired at a priest walking around church grounds. Ten minutes later, across town, Ohio State Highway Patrol troopers spotted a stolen vehicle that was taken at gunpoint, and dash cam video showed the high-speed chase that followed. Last month, a 12-year-old boy was shot dead outside of his father’s business.
“It’s a wave like we’ve never seen,” added O’Malley.
In all of those cases, police believe teenagers were involved and all of them had prior criminal records.
“Crime in our community right now is being driven by individuals between 14 and 21 years old,” O’Malley said.
Assistant Prosecuting Attorney John Hirschauer deals with the most violent offenders and he sees a disturbing trend. The crimes are more violent and “the 14 and 15-year-olds are doing things we were seeing seven years ago being done by 16 and 17-year-olds,” said Hirschauer.
O’Malley said the goal of juvenile court is to rehabilitate the child. The challenge is the unprecedented increase in crimes committed by juveniles. Prosecutor O'Malley said Wednesday that brand new numbers show that from 2011 to 2016, juveniles charged with murder is up 300 percent, felonious assault is up 156 percent and robbery is up 344 percent.
News 5 checked those numbers based on data provided by the court's annual reports — starting in 2003.
According to the reports, the number of juveniles charged in homicide-related cases has increased steadily since 2012.
In 2003, there were 24 juveniles charged in homicides. That number peaked in 2008 with 48. Then, the number started to decline. In 2011, it hit as low as 16. The number increased dramatically in 2013, with 49.
Last year, the county hit its highest number with 72 juveniles charged in connection to a homicide.
The number of juveniles charged in robberies also spiked in 2016, to 1,047 up from 641 the year before.
The juvenile court did not have numbers available yet for 2017.
O’Malley said more funding is needed to expand and staff the juvenile justice center to capacity.
“There isn’t enough space. In the morning, there are hearings for kids arrested for the previous night and are released because there is no room,” said O’Malley.