MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - In a matter of days multiple 16 year old’s have been charged with capital murder and a 17 year old charged for shooting 4 people and killing 1 near Auburn University’s campus.
Montgomery District Attorney Daryl Bailey says teen violence is escalating.
“We’ve got to do something to curtail these young people having access and having all these weapons that they are then turning around and using in these violent offenses”, Bailey said.
Bailey believes this surge in gun violence in Montgomery is linked to gang activity.
“Let’s not hide that aspect”, stated Bailey. “This is a lot of the older gang members influencing the younger gang members to go out and do these things. They have what are called shooters in every gang. Those are usually 14, 15, 16 year old kids designated to do the shooting. The older ones are standing back directing everything so they won’t get in trouble, and the younger ones are doing the dirty work.”
He says gangs are becoming the internal support system for the young people in the city that don’t have that structure at home, and he’d like to see an increase in resources committed to disrupting gang activity.
“I had a 15-year-old tell me a few weeks ago that the gang is his family now”, he explained. “His mama didn’t want anything to do with him, wasn’t supporting him, and didn’t provide the things he wanted and needed. He went and found a family, and his family is now a gang who has him on the streets selling drugs. They are either selling drugs and committing violent crimes to be part of the family.”
Bailey says parents must be present to save the city’s teens. He encourages all parents to monitor their children’s social media accounts on all platforms and consistently go through their room and things to be aware of what they’re bringing in and out of the house.
“The warning signs are always there”, Bailey stated. “It usually goes back to their behavior in school, misbehaving in school, getting expelled from school, and then winding up on the street committing these violent offenses.”
A high school diploma drastically decreases a teen’s potential to fall into a career of crime. Bailey asks parents to make sure their teens are in class, and following up with their teachers. He believes this is the first line of defense to saving a child from the streets.
“We have to have parents support in keeping their kids in school”, he said. “We run across parents who are complicit in their kids not going to school and we have to deal with them in the criminal justice system.”
The Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office offers a number of programs for the youth to keep them out of the criminal justice system, however he makes a firm promise to parents who refuse to support their children or choose to advance their criminal behavior.
“I can’t make you love your child but I can hold you responsible and I can hold your child responsible”, Bailey explained. “We want to help, but if it has to involve it the criminal justice system I’m committed.”
Bailey believes his gun reward program is working, and it could be part of a larger solution to get firearms out of the hands of teens. The D.A.’s Office offers $300 to anyone who reports a juvenile with a gun, callers who reach out to his office or CrimeStoppers can remain anonymous.
So far, the guns taken out of the hands of teens are far beyond common handguns.
“What we’re collecting is much of what we are seeing on social media: it’s revolvers, assault rifles”, he explained. “I saw a 15-year-old on social media holding an assault rifle. With the help of some neighbors and members of the community we were able to go in and confiscate the gun and him.”
Bailey says the rash of teen violence is burdensome, but he doesn’t grow weary in the fight to save as many as he can from a life of crime.
“It’s heartbreaking to see the ones that we can’t reach”, Bailey admitted. “But what you don’t hear about are the number of kids lives that we change and the activities that are done in the community to help them, we are making a difference.”
If you have any information on teens with guns, or gang violence, you can call the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office at 334-832-2550 or CrimeStoppers at 334-215-STOP.