Shelby County leaders discuss tactics to help reduce number of repeat juvenile offenders

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- WREG is learning more about an initiative to lower the number of repeat youth offenders.

The Memphis-Shelby County Crime Commission president says so far this year crimes committed by juveniles are up, partly due to the number of vehicle thefts the county is seeing.

In early August there were police lights and a wrecked SUV in Parkway Village. Memphis police detectives say a 14-year-old was responsible.

He was charged with carjacking and kidnapping after officers said he stole the vehicle with children inside from a Dollar General parking lot.

Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell and the Memphis Shelby County Crime Commission President Bill Gibbons spoke to WREG on Tuesday about efforts to help troubled teens.

Gibbons said about 40 percent of those in the juvenile justice system are repeat offenders.

"So what we need to do as a community is a better job of addressing what's going on after that first contact with law enforcement," he explained.

If that happens, Gibbons says young people are helped and crime will go down.

They're looking to provide outside services with a Juvenile Assessment Center, or JAC. The program, which they plan to introduce to community members next month, is modeled after programs in Denver and Miami.

"Really it's an effort to assess what's going on in that young person's life as well as what's going on in that young person's family life. And try to really address that on the front end, again so there is not a repeat of that person going through the juvenile justice system again," said Gibbons.

More about the JAC program will be presented to the community and stakeholders involved in juvenile justice October 17 at the University of Memphis.