Youth crime rises as school lets out
Now that most schools in the area are out for the summer, law enforcement is warning people to be extra careful, saying that they generally see an uptick in crimes committed by youth this time of year.
Local officers say some of the most common crimes students commit when they're out of class are burglaries to homes and schools, petty thefts and vandalism.
In Clay County, deputies have developed a variety of programs to keep students in good hands and out of handcuffs.
"We see an uptick in shoplifting, burglary to autos, residences and structures, as well as our schools," said Lt. Kenneth Wagner, of the Clay County Sheriff's Office.
One example is the arrest of 11 Fleming Island teens last week in connection with breaking into a friend's home over the Memorial Day weekend. It wasn't summer yet, but they were out of school on a holiday weekend, and Wagner said deputies are on the lookout for that type of behavior. Though he also warns residents to try to be proactive.
"We start programs to keep them occupied to focus their efforts elsewhere other than committing crimes and getting themselves into trouble," Wagner said.
Wagner and other Clay County deputies partner with the Police Athletic League to have a basketball camp. It's one of the many ways they aim to prevent the increase in crime when kids are just too idle.
"There's too much bad influence going on, so I'd rather have them do something positive instead of being out there doing negative things," said Pamela Rembert, a mother of four.
While local authorities are seeing more crimes committed when students are out school, across the state it's a different story. According to Department of Juvenile Justice statistics, over recent years, juvenile delinquency has been lower when school is out of session compared to when it's in.
Regardless of where you live and what the stats are, Channel 4 crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson said parents should keep a close eye on their children, talk to them and keep them busy.
"There's all kinds of things kids can do during the summer, such as camps," Jefferson said. "They can volunteer and they can go to work during the summer."
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