Councilman wants “scared straight” program as teen violence continues to rise

Nashville has a teen violence problem but city leaders have different opinions on the possible solutions.

According to numbers provided by the Juvenile Justice Center, violent crimes amongst teens have increased dramatically.

For instance, juvenile arrests for aggravated robberies have more than doubled this year compared to 2016.

From January 1 to June 1, 53 teens were arrested for aggravated robbery. From January 1 to June 1 last year, 26 teens were arrested for aggravated robbery.

Juvenile arrests for vehicle thefts has also increased from 44 to 74 for the same time periods.

The number of teens arrested for murder has increased from six to ten.

“The kids who have been shot have affected my community and we can’t continue to accept that,” Councilman DeCosta Hastings told News 2.

Hastings wants to bring a “scared straight” program to Nashville because he believes the juvenile court system is too soft on certain teens.

“The same kids are committing crimes and then being pushed back into the system,” he said. “If we have repeat offenders, I think we need to get a little tougher.”

But Juvenile Court Judge Sheila Calloway says many teens committing serious crimes have experienced major trauma in their life and they don’t need to be traumatized further.

“Whether their parents were fighting over them and not learning to co-parent or they were being abused and neglected, those are the children we end up seeing in court,” she told News 2. “If you want to prevent the crimes and prevent the problems, we’ve got to get to the root of the problem. Scaring someone into doing better is not what works.”

Judge Calloway says parents need parenting classes, teens need positive programs to enroll in and mentors to look up to.

One of those positive programs is “R.E.A.L” through the Oasis Center, which stands for “Reaching Excellence as Leaders.”

Sherhonda Williams enrolled her son in the program. He’s never been arrested but she says she did it as a preventative measure.

Still, she’d like to see a scared straight program for some teens.

“Some part of me feels like they need to see where their actions will land them,” she told News 2. “When you say if you make a bad decision you’ll go to jail, I don’t think they consciously know what jail is.”

Councilman Hastings has also thrown out the idea of having parents held criminally responsible if their children keep getting in trouble. His team is researching that option right now.