Juvenile crime hurting young victims across major US cities: 'A vicious cycle'

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A handful of teenage boys' tragic killings have made local and national headlines recently as a result of violent crime incidents in Philadelphia; Baltimore; Washington, D.C.; Chicago and other cities or metropolitan areas.

Sean Toomey. James McGrath. Jasmine Brunson. Ethan Liming. Blu Bryant. Robert Yocum. Christian Beamon.

While their names may look familiar, there are hundreds of teenagers — particularly teenage boys — who have been impacted by violent crime trends, often at the hands of other juveniles or young adults, in recent months.

Victims

McGrath and Liming were beaten to death. Toomey, Brunson, Bryant, Yocum and Beamon — the 18-year-old brother of Fox News contributor Gianno Caldwell — were fatally shot. Suspects have been named in less than half of their cases.

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"The defund the police movement has created chaos. People talk about studies saying there is no correlation between defunding the police and the increase in crime. But that’s absolutely not true. I don’t care about the studies you're referring to. It’s a mentality," Caldwell told Fox News Digital about crime impacting juveniles in Chicago, where he grew up, and other major cities.

Fox News analyst Gianno Caldwell is looking for answers after his 18-year-old brother, Christian, was fatally shot in Chicago on Saturday.

Fox News analyst Gianno Caldwell is looking for answers after his 18-year-old brother, Christian, was fatally shot in Chicago on Saturday. (Gianno Caldwell)

He added that the "defund" movement has "created a mentality where the criminals" get away with burglary and other property or non-violent crimes and eventually turn to more violent offenses. Once they do commit violent crimes, such as taking another person’s life, they "forfeit" their own "right to life," he said.

"You lose your right to live because either, one, you're going to jail, or two, eventually you get murdered," Caldwell said when asked if he had a message for violent offenders. "That's when it automatically becomes a vicious cycle. My family's paying the price."

Violent crime

It is true that violent crime and juvenile crime have decreased in the United States since the 1990s and early 2000s. 

It is also true that violent crime has increased in certain major U.S. cities or metropolitan areas over the past two years since the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated hardships for Americans across the country and rhetoric regarding law enforcement shifted.

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Families living in those major U.S. cities are witnesses to — and victims of — those increases in crime, and they have concerns for youth growing up in those areas.

"I was born and raised in this area," Sean Toomey’s father, John Toomey, said of Philadelphia in an interview last week. "Nothing like this ever happened before. … I’m not simply talking about my son's shooting. … I just had my truck stolen two weeks ago. It was parked on the side of the street."

Sean Toomey, 15, was fatally shot in the head on March 24. Daniel Gardee, 17, and Saahir Teagle, 17, were arrested in connection to his killing in June.

Sean Toomey, 15, was fatally shot in the head on March 24. Daniel Gardee, 17, and Saahir Teagle, 17, were arrested in connection to his killing in June. (GoFundMe)

He added that he is hearing "terrible news" about "carjackings" and other violent crime not only in Philadelphia but in other cities like Chicago.

"The sad thing is, it's something government can't fix. It's for the family," he continued. "It starts with these kids. I would put  a lot of money on the fact that none of them have fathers. They all come from a one-parent background. They’re not brought up right."

In Chicago and Philadelphia, homicides are down this year, even though they saw increases in homicide in 2020 and 2021.

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In Philadelphia, total homicide numbers are down about 5% year-over-year, but there has been a rise n violent crime driven by a nearly 61% uptick in armed robbery. Property crimes in the city are up 30% on average, with every category of property crime increasing since last year. Commercial burglary is up about 53%, theft from a person is up about 64%, theft from auto is up nearly 48% and auto theft is up 16%.

In Chicago, total homicides have decreased year-over-year from 336 in 2021 to 204 this year, other forms of violent crime, including robbery, aggravated battery, burglary, theft and motor vehicle theft have increased since the same time period last year. Total violent crime in has increased 34% so far this year. 

Juvenile crime

Juvenile crime also increased in major cities. Carjackings, armed robberies, assaults and burglaries involving juveniles has risen in cities such as Philadelphia, Chicago, Baltimore, Washington, D.C. and others since about 2019, with carjackings being the most prevalent among juveniles.

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Carjackings have soared by 286% in New York City from 2019 to 2021, while Philadelphia saw the second-highest increase, 238%, according to National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) president and CEO David Glawe. Chicago followed with the third-highest increase, 207%, from 2019 to 2021, then Washington, D.C. with a 200% increase and New Orleans with 159%, Glawe previously told Fox News Digital.

Philadelphia saw a 238% increase in carjackings from 2019 to 2021. 

Philadelphia saw a 238% increase in carjackings from 2019 to 2021.  (FOX29 Philadelphia WTXF)

Chicago officials have cited data showing carjacking offenders are most often between the ages of 15 and 20.

In Washington, D.C., homicides are up 14% and robbery is up 29% so far this year. Instances of motor vehicle theft, theft from auto and "other" auto incidents are relatively unchanged since last year, when auto theft and theft from auto had increased since 2020. Juveniles have made up the majority of carjacking suspects over the last two years.

In Hinds County — home to Jackson, Mississippi — Sheriff Tyree Jones said in a May discussion that he has "been in law enforcement for nearly 23 years," and "within the last year or two, it has been the worst" he has "ever seen it regarding our youth," according to WLBT.

Experts have previously told Fox News Digital that carjacking incidents can often lead to violent crime.

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Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw told Fox News Digital in a June interview the "pandemic exacerbated a lot of the social inequities that we saw around access to health care, access to housing, access just to food, when…the administration shut down the schools because of COVID."

"[W]e lost a lot of our warm touchpoints, specifically around young people, because we're seeing that our shooters have gotten younger, and our shooting victims have also gotten younger," she said.

At least 104 shooting victims in Philadelphia so far this year are under the age of 18, according to the Officer of the Controller.

Preventative measures

Maria Tcherni-Buzzeo, associate professor of criminal justice at the University of New Haven in Connecticut, pointed to the prevalence of firearms in major cities as part of the current juvenile crime issue, which she noted has decreased over the last three decades.

"There is this natural instinct to say, ‘Oh, kids are out of control. What is happening?’ … But whatever is driving this trend in homicide — it's clearly different from the trends in other violent crime because every almost every other violent crime has been down," she said. "And so there must be something that is different about homicides specifically. And actually another category of crime that has been going up is mass shootings. And so my guess is that it probably has something to do with guns, because why do we see other violent crimes not affected as much?"

"It takes a village," including services and opportunities, as well as treatment and counseling, to prevent juveniles from committing crimes and keep them safe in their communities, Tcherni-Buzzeo continued.

Renee Williams, executive director at the National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC), said juvenile victims of crime need to receive adequate support after a violent encounter to ensure that they do not fall into a cycle of violence.

"It is a learned behavior," she said. "It is not something that is natural for the juvenile."

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Williams added that it is "a pretty high statistic of juvenile offenders that have gone through children's services and then become offenders."

While different services for victims of crime differ jurisdiction by jurisdiction, Williams suggested crime victims seek therapy, victim advocates that are often offered by prosecutors or law enforcement offices, and centers that offer help to those who have been subject to violent crime. Additionally, NCVC’s free hotline connects crime victims with specialists trained to help victims "identify services" and compensation applications to ease the recovery process.

Fox News' Stephanie Pagones contributed to this report.

Audrey Conklin is a digital reporter for FOX Business and Fox News. Email tips to audrey.conklin@fox.com or on Twitter at @audpants.

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