City doesn't match state's high numbers on juvenile crime

Okpolicy.org | courtesy photo

A graph from 2016 indicated arrests spiked due to the increase in drugs.

A recent report indicated Oklahoma has one of the highest juvenile crime rates in the country, and a study revealed 1,280 juvenile arrests were drug-related.

Tahlequah Police Chief Nate King understands those numbers are uncomfortably high for the state, but he said the city has not marked a significant increase in crime compared to normal levels for this time of year.

In the past 90 days, 10 juvenile crimes were reported in the city of Tahlequah, and only four of those were drug- and alcohol-related incidents. The others were two stolen vehicles, two thefts and two shoplifting cases.

Typically, officers see a spike in juvenile crime during the summer and holiday breaks and on weekends.

"Kids have a lot more free time and parents are working, so kids are on their own a lot more. We see a rise during those times when they don't have as much oversight," King said.

The Tahlequah Daily Press asked participants on a recent Facebook Forum if they believed crime is becoming more prevalent, and what the punishment should be besides arresting youngsters.

Bobbi Smith said it comes down to the parents and the need to balance authority and love.

"Children who have enabling parents create a sense of entitlement, among other things. We are creating a generation of non-productive citizens who can't take care of themselves," said Smith.

Consulting and Counseling for Community Change owner Levi Keehler said parents should learn how to shift the way they talk to their adolescent children and be active parents.

"If you have a positive connection with your parents, they will always remain a source of trusted information, but you have to develop that early on," said Keehler. "You have to maintain it through the turbulence that occurs in early adolescence when it's challenged."

Four individuals were questioned for the vandalism of the Norris Park statue last month - three juveniles and one adult. Some observers wonder if the cause of vandalism could be the result of teens wanting to "show off" to their friends, or perhaps they just don't know any better.

"There's a social order that occurs naturally in these groups, and so you see a kid trying to put off a cool aura. The data suggests that parents are our No. 1 go-to until early adolescence, and then it's your friend group," said Keehler.

He tied a quote by Viktor Frankl to his theory on why kids act out: "Ever more people today have the means to live, but no meaning to live for."

"I think that sums it up, to be honest. Why do you think a kid is going and vandalizing a statue? There's no reasoning behind it -there is no connection to reason, and therefore it must be coming from another place. It's probably for attention and they don't want the polices attention; they want [attention from the] group of people they are around and that gives them a source of meaning."

Readers were asked on an online poll posted on the TDP website, if they thought juvenile crime was a growing problem in this part of the state. Fifty-five they strongly agreed, 22 somewhat agreed, and six somewhat disagreed. Four strongly disagreed and three were uncertain.

King said most juvenile crimes tend to occur in areas along the Town Branch Creek between the skate park and Norris Park.

"If you're a juvenile walking in Tahlequah, those are the two hangouts or places where you're going to go if you're on foot," King said.

Kim Mitchell shared her thoughts on the forum and said one way to help the juvenile crime rate would be to eliminate poverty.

"By providing a way for the impoverish to pull themselves out of it. Create a working, involved, community center like the YMCA that can provide services at free to little cost. Make an actual rehab facility that is not a ring for trafficking and provide sober living houses for after treatment," said Mitchell.

Overall, King said just as with adults, there is that 10-15 percent of people who ruin it for the other 85 percent.

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To see more comments about juvenile crime, go to www.facebook.com/tdpress and scroll down to the June 29 Facebook Forum.