DENVER — This fall, some headlines have seemingly repeated themselves; a violent crime happens and within a matter of hours, the public is informed that juveniles are somehow involved. Violence intervention specialists say there are several reasons behind the trend.
"This is an everyday thing for me," Jason McBride said. "Every single day. I knew a kid that got shot last night."
McBride has done measurable work with teens across the Denver metro — with the goal of keeping kids out of trouble and harm's way. He has his own nonprofit, McBride Impact, and he's a secondary violence intervention specialist and activist at another nonprofit, the Struggle of Love Foundation.
"Secondary violence interruption is basically going to scenes of violence and working there with some of the people who are victims, maybe to deter any retaliations, you know, share resources to family that needs it," he said. "Just kind of defuse any situations that may arise from that bad situation that has happened."
As of late, there have been many "bad situations", as McBride calls them, pertaining to juveniles in the Denver metro area.
"It's the sad reality of what we do and what we have going on the streets," he said.
On Nov. 7, Lakewood Police announced the arrests of a 12-year-old and a 14-year-old in connection to a deadly apartment fire. Denver officers arrested a 14-year-old boy for reckless manslaughter on Nov. 5. In late October, Aurora police said a 15-year-old was behind the wheel of a stolen car which caused a crash inuring 11 people and killing a 12 year old.
On Nov. 3, Aurora officers said an hours-long SWAT response ended when they discovered a teenager had died of a self-inflicted gunshot. The teen barricaded himself in an apartment after he allegedly shot at a uniformed police officer during a road rage incident. Nearly ten days later, on Nov. 12, Aurora officers reported a 12-year-old and 13-year-old who were related were injured in a drive-by shooting on Zion Street.
"The 12-year-old was tragically pronounced deceased a short time later and the 14-year-old remains hospitalized with serious injuries," officers said in a press release at the time, later saying in an affidavit in the case the boy who was hospitalized was actually 13 years old. A person of interest was arrested in the case.
The scope of the past few weeks were described as "bleak" and "heartbreaking" by McBride who named a series of causations for juvenile crime.
The first being inequities faced by children in low-income areas, according to the activist.
"Our kids are just trying to make it through the day and other kids are able to focus on four years down the line," he said. "When we look at our schools in our community — some don't have cafeterias, some don't have libraries [and] most don't have the curriculum that these other schools have. What do we do to keep our kids in school? What is the attraction? There's guns, there's violence, and there's all kinds of drugs, but there's really no learning."
McBride said the prevalence of gangs also make juveniles mores susceptible to violence and violent behaviors.
"You have a lot of generational gang activity and what that means is, it's more normalized in these communities," he said. "So where granddad was or may have started that gang, son is in that gang and now grandson is following that line."
He added, "Now you have these hybrid groups, which are, you know, a bunch of kids who are maybe identifying with each other. Maybe they have a Fortnite group online — and that kind of thing will turn into its own kind of hybrid little gang and these kids are getting weapons. It's six or seven kids that identify with each other inside of communities that are already stricken or plagued by gangs."
Fortnite is a popular online video game which has been studied and criticized for its depictions of violence.
Data obtained via a public records request to the Colorado Judicial Department showed there were 4,938 juvenile delinquency cases filed in 2021. From the start of this year through Nov. 7 there were 4,744 juvenile delinquency cases. According to the department's Annual Statistic Report for fiscal year 2022, juvenile court filings increased by a little more than 5%. The branch's fiscal year runs from July 1, 2021 through June 30, 2022.
A report from The Gazette indicates that while annual homicide filings for juveniles in the state have increased — generally, juvenile crime is going down.
Nonetheless, McBride said the ages of recent juvenile arrestees is a cause for concern.
"Three or four years ago, you know, we were talking about the violence in the city and how it was affecting 14,15 and 16 year olds," McBride said. "Next year, you'll come in here talking about 10 and 11-year-olds."
Denver7 reached out to law enforcement agencies across the Denver metro, some of which identified an increase in juvenile arrests. The arrest data can include a variety of occurrences — from less serious offenses such as municipal ordinance violations or infractions to more serious crimes like misdemeanors and felony offenses.
Juvenile Arrests from Sept. 26 - Nov. 7
|Adams County Sheriff's Office||20*||14*|
|Lakewood Police Department||30||17|
|Denver Police Department||43||44|
|Aurora Police Department||39||33|
*Data was gathered through Nov. 11
McBride said he and other other nonprofits dedicated to preventing juvenile violence always need more financial support. To donate to the Struggle of Love Foundation, click here.