Spike in juvenile crime predicted to wane

Authorities predict a summer rash of juvenile crime likely will wane as students return to school.

Macon police Lt. Michael Schlageter said officers made 51 juvenile arrests between June 1 and Aug. 6, more than he remembers in recent years. The majority of the crimes were committed by male teenagers between the ages of 13 and 16.

Typically, children who get in trouble are being busted for burglary, basic theft and car theft, Schlageter said.

Investigator Dennis Terry said the juveniles commonly steal video gaming systems, electronic toys and portable electronics.

“They just take what they can carry,” he said.

For example, four juveniles and two adults have been arrested in connection with a July 20 burglary at Van’s Pawn Mart on Mercer University Drive, Terry said.

He said the group broke a window and stole video games stacked near the window.

In a separate case, six teenagers, ages 11 to 16, were charged with committing 12 burglaries in the Lindsey Drive and Ohara Drive South vicinity in late May. The group took TVs and video games, Terry said.

“I think a lot of it is entertainment,” Schlageter said of the reasons that drive teens to break the law.

While most of the crimes committed by children are property crimes, two boys were charged with cruelty to animals on July 28 after allegedly using an accelerant to burn a cat on Merriwood Drive, said police.

The boys, ages 11 and 12, live in the vicinity where the cat was found.

In Bibb County, Sheriff Jerry Modena said children typically are arrested on charges of vandalism, breaking into cars, theft and burglary.

For example, six teenagers were charged with burglary, arson, criminal damage to property and trespassing after participating in a crime spree in the Lake Wildwood area during the July 4 weekend while attending a sleepover, according to the sheriff’s office.

The teens, ages 13 to 16, allegedly set fire to an old bath house, stole items from Stratford Academy’s soccer field concession stand, vandalized a baseball dugout and stole a lawn mower and a golf cart, according to the sheriff’s office.

Although statistics about overall juvenile crime weren’t available last week, Modena said the number of crimes committed by children historically increases in the summer months.

“The kids are out,” Modena said, adding children typically aren’t under as much adult supervision during the summer.

He said peer pressure often weighs heavily in what causes children to commit a crime.

Although Modena said crimes committed by children don’t represent a large number of overall crime in Bibb County, he said deputies question children they see out late at night and try to enforce a midnight curfew for children 16 and under by contacting parents.

Both Modena and Schlageter said community programs that offer children’s activities, such as recreation centers, provide a constructive alternative for children’s time instead of getting into trouble.

Schlageter said more programs are needed.

“We need to focus on keeping their minds off the street,” he said.

Information from The Telegraph’s archives was included in this report. To contact reporter Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.