DCS changes protocols after teens run away from youth home in Gallatin

(Photo: WKRN)

GALLATIN, Tenn. (WKRN) – The Department of Children’s Services is changing protocols at one of its youth homes after several teens ran away and led police on a chase.

The Volunteer Youth Academy is a facility where troubled teens are ordered to for rehabilitation. It’s the same home that Gallatin police responded to last year.

The home isn’t secure, and because of that, the teens can walk right out the door.

On Thursday night, a 15, 16 and three 17 year olds, ran away from the home, forcing most of the Gallatin evening shift officers to hunt for the boys.

(Photo: WKRN)

“Five of them run away and we had pretty much the entire shift looking for them and chasing them,” said Officer Janell Wilson.

Body cam obtained by News 2 shows the last of the teens being arrested near Arby’s in Gallatin.

Gallatin police said officials at the group home knew the boys were planning something earlier in the day.

“The staff overheard them earlier in the day saying they would run away and where they were going to go. But we didn’t get a call until after they ran and for two hours we chased them,” Wilson said. “They should have called with the issues we have had.”

Police told News 2 two of the five teens who ran away Thursday reportedly stole a car last week and led police on a high-speed chase into Trousdale County.

One of the teens arrested last month was involved in a violent altercation outside the Volunteer Youth Academy a few months ago. News 2 obtained video of that incident, which shows council members and the mayor on hand. Five minors were ultimately taken into custody during that incident.

Now, just a few months later, police are asking DCS why it can’t fix the problem at the group home.

“We have already talked to them,” Wilson said. “We’ve explained to them what we would like – their cooperation to stop this from happening. This home was supposed to be a place for them to rehabilitate and as far as I can see, it’s still not happening.”

Police said the teens in the latest incident ran in and out of a sporting goods store while on the run. They are not investigating if they stole clothes from the store.

Late Friday, DCS issued a statement to News 2 that said, “DCS and Volunteer Youth Academy have agreed to a freeze in new admissions. The freeze will be re-evaluated after 30 days.”

The facility said it will also be increasing its staff-to-student ration from one to five to one to three on its second and third shifts.

DCS is also re-evaluating the placements of the five teens who ran from the facility. The agency also thanked the Gallatin Police Department for its responsiveness and professionalism.