Increased instances of juvenile violent crimes reflect an alarming new strategy by Denver street gang leaders to arm young recruits with guns and have them carry out vendettas against rival gangs, including fatal shootings because laws protect juvenile killers from serving lengthy prison terms, reported the Denver Post.
The cycle continues. As the treatment of juveniles becomes more lenient--the death penalty is gone, mandatory life in prison is gone and states begin reconsider harsh sentences for juveniles--criminal enterprises are back to using juveniles for violent crime.
“Adult and older gang members are becoming more sophisticated. They realize that young members don’t have the same severe consequences as they do. The guns are handed off to the younger kids,” said Kelly Waidler, senior deputy district attorney in Denver District Attorney Beth McCann’s juvenile unit. She formally served in the office’s gang unit.
Teenage killers and robbers adjudicated in juvenile court spend a maximum of five to seven years in a Colorado Division of Youth Services facility depending on their age. It is possible, however, that teens tried in adult court could initially go to youth services and later be transferred to an adult prison to serve out a lengthier sentence, Waidler said.
The rising number of arrests of juveniles for illegal possession of handguns in Denver and an increase in juvenile gun crimes including robbery and homicide may reflect a new strategy of arming younger gang members, said Courtney Johnston, chief deputy attorney in the juvenile unit.
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