Prosecutors weigh challenges of reducing violent crime among teens

juvenile justice center
Posted at 3:23 PM, Oct 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-18 19:16:20-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Shootings, carjackings, and young people being shot. There are more victims in Nashville and more teens are dying.

What to do?

Davidson County's top juvenile prosecutors said there's no easy answer to this public safety issue.

The county's Juvenile Justice Center is a place where young suspects accused of crimes learn their fate. The most serious cases usually involve the use of a weapon.

"Aggravated assault can range from a kid throwing a rock at their mom to a young person pulling a gun on someone," said Khadija Babb, who prosecutes juvenile cases for the district attorney's office.

The most recent disturbing case-making news was the tragic murder of musician Kyle Yorlets.

Two teens — 15 and 16 at the time of the shooting — just last week pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.

But that's the rare instance where two youth suspects are transferred to adult court.

At best, other teens caught with guns are temporarily held in juvenile detention.

"That's our number one rule. If a youth comes in with a handgun then we advocate for them to be held in detention," said Babb.

But that doesn't always happen.

Babb says defense attorneys may argue it's a first-time offense or there is a plan for supervised release. If a gun is involved Babb disagrees.

"Oh, 100%. If a youth comes in on a handgun charge we do not think they should be released. We never advocate for release in those instances," Babb said.

But Babb says it's difficult to prosecute when half the time victims refuse or fail to show up in court.

"Some people tend not to come," Babb said.

Outside the courtroom, Babb says guns need to be kept away from kids. The majority of teens get their guns stealing them from unlocked cars.

"You have to understand once they get a gun that emboldens them to do even more egregious crimes," said Babb.

This may sound odd, but those who do end up in juvenile detention could be considered if they straighten out their lives.

As for those who do not?

Forty-one teens so far this year have suffered gunshot injuries and six have died.

As for teens stealing guns — Metro police repeatedly post alerts asking the public to please make sure to secure your guns and do not leave them unattended in the car.