“Juvenile crime is on the rise,” said Chattanooga Police Department spokesperson Elisa Myzal through text.

Data Channel 3 requested from the department reflects that statement.

It shows juveniles committed nine violent crimes in 2017. In 2018, that number jumped to 35. So far this year (as of June 5), the city has seen 22 violent cases involving a juvenile.

Our team has reported at least two of those cases.

One made headlines in April, when police began investigating a carjacking that resulted in serious injuries. After a brief search, two juveniles were charged especially aggravated robbery and attempted murder.

Just four days ago, two 13-year-old's were shot downtown during Riverbend. Police announced the shooter was just 14 years old.

Chattanooga Police Chief David Roddy called the incident alarming when Channel 3 spoke to him moments after that shooting.

“An incident like this, where individuals just choose to inflect violence on our community, it is alarming. It is disturbing for us. It's not something that we want to do and that's why every officer down here works every night, every day down here to make sure we can prevent it,” he said.

But how are youth getting access to guns?

“Juveniles often obtain firearms by stealing them, illegally purchasing them, or borrowing them from someone they know who has them,” Myzal responded.

However she says nearly half, or 47%, of stolen guns reported to CPD from 2016 to 2018 were taken from vehicles. 

“That's largely because guns are left unsecured in the vehicles. The gun is stolen then used to commit a violent crime and/or sold to someone who can't legally purchase a firearm (i.e. juvenile, prohibited possessor). Firearms are also obtained from homes where they're not secured - whether that's stolen from another person's home or a juvenile takes it from his/her own home,” Myzal explained.

In effort to keep the city's youth out of trouble, police say it's important to keep them engaged, occupied, and learning.

“There are many resources in our community to help kids. CPD is a participant in the Serious Habitual Offender Community Action Plan (SHOCAP), which brings together law enforcement, schools, juvenile corrections (probation), and other community partners to help kids get on a safer, law-abiding path,” said Myzal.

The city’s Teen Empowerment Program, YFD Center summer programs and activities, and Big Brothers Big Sisters are other programs available that provide mentors to youth.