Nashville sees rash of violent youth crime ahead of spring break

Metro police generic
(Photo: WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Just this week, the Metro police have arrested multiple juveniles in connection with violent crimes, including shootings, carjackings, armed robberies and high-speed pursuits.

Thursday morning police had to deploy spike stripes on Interstate 40 to stop a car with three teens leading officers on a high-speed chase.

The teens matched a description of people wanted for carjacking a gold Nissan Altima in La Vergne and an armed robbery of a cab driver near Donelson, both of which occurred earlier Wednesday evening.

A patrolling officer noticed the suspects getting gas at the Shell station on Vultee Boulevard and followed them to I-40, where they took off at a high rate of speed.

(Photo: WKRN)

Also, Thursday Metro police arrested a 14-year-old wanted for a car theft in East Nashville on Sunday.

The owner took cell phone video of the suspect as he drove away in her car. In the video, the teen can be seen taunting the owner while waiting for the gate to her apartment complex to open before speeding away.

The vehicle was later recovered in Madison.

On Tuesday, Metro police arrested a group of three teens after an officer spotted them open fire on the D.B. Todd Market in the 1500 block of Dr. D.B. Todd Junior Boulevard.

According to one of the teens, they were upset because the pizza they ordered did not have the right toppings.

An employee in the store at the time said one teen ordered a pizza and then another teen came into the store after the first left to say he wanted a different pizza.

When the store declined to refund his money, the teens then opened fire from a car in the parking lot

Monday a group of four or five teens opened fire on another group of teens who were in front of the McFerrin Community Center in East Nashville.

McFerrin Community Center (Photo: WKRN)

Metro police said there were at least 50 rounds fired. A 17-year-old was shot in the leg and a 16-year-old was shot in the foot. The group of teens who fired the shots is still on the loose.

They were last seen driving a white Honda Accord or a white Nissan Altima.

Ron Johnson is Chief Intervention Specialist for the Reaching Excellence as Leaders (R.E.A.L) program at the Oasis Center.

The R.E.A.L. program is a youth intervention program for teens in the juvenile justice system. Teens are referred to the program by the juvenile court or probation officers as an alternative to detention.

The majority of the teens in the program are boys from impoverished single parent homes.

The program offers the teens counseling, family activities, the opportunity to build positive relationships and education on how to break gang ties or other unhealthy relationships.

According to the program, graduates have a re-offend rate of about 17 percent compared to the national average of 55 percent.

“Until we can address this like we address mental illness, it is going to be hard to combat,” Johnson said.

Johnson said the problem of youth violence is like mental illness because the activity is tied to behaviors that are not typical for people their age.

“We know without a doubt that these types of crimes are not natural things that a 13, 14, 15 or 16-year-old will do,” he said. “We have really got to try to arrest not the young person, but arrest the things that young person is dealing with because that is where we are going to make a change because we know that is an illness.”

He continued, “If we can give the mental illness the attention it really needs we can change the young person.”

Johnson said in his experience a lot of the teens have traumatic experiences they never heal from. He calls that an invisible injury.

“It is an injury that some of us even as adults have suffered and we never deal with it,” he explained.

In January, four teenagers were charged with homicide compared to none charged in January 2016.

According to the Davidson County Juvenile Court administrator, in January 2016, eight juveniles were charged with aggravated assault and four teens were charged with aggravated robbery. No juveniles were charged with especially aggravated robbery or homicide.

In January 2017, a total of 19 juveniles were charged with aggravated assault, 13 with aggravated robbery, four with especially aggravated robbery, and six others were charged with homicide.

Now in March, the recent crimes by teenagers are happening just as Metro-Nashville Public School students start spring break.

Then in a few months they will be out for the summer break. Johnson said hopefully work done by a coalition of Nashville leaders including the mayor, juvenile court judge, district attorney and others will curb violence during the summer months.

“We have leaders right now who are trying to do what I believe is a wrap around,” Johnson said. “All of them are trying to meet those young people in those spaces they are in the most need like with employment.”

Metro police continue to seek information about the shooting at the McFerrin Community Center, Monday.

If you have any information about the teens involved, call Metro police at 615-862-8600 Crime Stoppers at 615-74-CRIME.