Vandals suspects, ages 9 to 22, caught on camera - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Vandals suspects, ages 9 to 22, caught on camera

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ATHENS, TN. (WRCB) – A group of vandals targeted an Athens playground in broad daylight.

Investigators were surprised to learn the suspects defacing school property were no older than the kids playing on it.

One of the suspects is just nine years old.

Police say it's not the first time this group has caused trouble.

Now, they could face harsh punishment.

Ingleside Principal Debbie Harrison says her staff was surprised to find green paint all over the school playground.

But what surveillance cameras showed was even more shocking.

"We were able to run the video back and pinpoint exactly who was involved," says Principal Harrison.

"It ranges from say your 20s, all the way down to a 9-year-old," says Detective Heath Willis.

Athens police say the majority of the suspects are local middle schoolers. One is an elementary student.

Detective Heath Willis says the group has been tagging businesses, breaking into buildings, and running with a much older crowd, including one student at Tennessee Wesleyan College.

"Even our own city stop signs," Willis says. "Trees were being vandalized with derogatory comments towards police."

The crimes go back three months.

Police have come close to making arrests before, but the victims chose not to press charges.

"Some of these kids are from our housing units, single-parent families," Willis says. "They'll get off the school bus and just take off."

Principal Debbie Harrison did press charges, hoping parents will step up.

"We looked at it as we needed to do something to make sure this didn't happen again," Harrison says. "So, we wanted to press charges."

Willis hopes it's a wakeup call for all parents.

"We've had kids in the past who have started out the same exact way, and sure enough the minute they turned 18 they were in the county jail for something a little worse than what they were doing before," Willis says. "You know, it just progresses."

Athens police have arrested two of the eight suspects. Their names are not being released because they are juveniles.

Officers are working with child services to take action with the nine-year-old suspect.

Detective Willis says it will be up to a grand jury whether or not to indict the oldest suspect, who is 22 years old.

If convicted he could spent up to six years behind bars.

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