Police: More juveniles involved in West Alabama crimes

It’s a troubling topic all around the country, and West Alabama is no different. Whether victims or suspects, more and more young people are becoming involved in violent crimes.

So how do we stop it? And more importantly, can we prevent it?

In Tuscaloosa County, a third of homicides over the past year involved either teenage suspects or victims.

Tuscaloosa County District Attorney Hays Webb said the growing lack of community cooperation isn’t helping this terrifying problem.

“People who have been shot or shot at — their homes, their children, their vehicles have been shot, and they’re unwilling to assist,” Webb said. “It is really troubling. Some are afraid, there is no question, but for others, this has become the norm.”

Victims’ avoidance of authorities is perpetuating the cycle of violence, Webb said.

Tuscaloosa Police Chief Brent Blankley said keeping children out of trouble starts at home.

“One of the things we absolutely hate is when we are walking through the mall or the grocery store and somebody says ‘hey, if you aren’t good the police are going to get you,’ ” Blankley said. “That sends the wrong message. That teaches them to be afraid of us. They shouldn’t be, because we are there to help.”

Working together, law enforcement is trying to break crime patterns by spreading a message of opportunity to our youth.

“They think ‘this is what you have to do to be a man,’ ” Blankley said. “That’s not what you have to do because you are going to spend the rest of your life in prison.”

Instead, Blankley said, children must learn that doing well in school or extracurricular activities is the ticket to a lifetime of success.

“It is troubling when we hear these kids think that this is everyday life,” Blankley said. “You can do so much more than that. That is what we tell them. Go to school. Learn a trade, go do something.”

Being a man isn’t toting around a gun or committing crimes, Blankley said.

“Being a man is taking care of your family and being respectable in the community,” he said.

The Tuscaloosa Violent Crimes Unit, which covers all of Tuscaloosa County, has investigated 28 homicides over the past year. Of those, nine involved suspects or victims younger than 18.

Categories: Crime, Featured, Local News