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'It's more violent': Recent trend of Jacksonville teens involved in high-profile crime

“Juvenile crime has risen since the last year or so. And it's more violent," former Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Detective Kim Varner says.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A Southside standoff on Labor Day ended with the arrests of four teenagers, two of them as young as 14, according to a Jacksonville Sheriff's Office incident report released Thursday. They're accused of breaking into a St. Johns County deputies car and stealing an AR-15, thousands of rounds of ammunition and a bulletproof vest.

Four days after the standoff, a different group of four teens from Duval County were arrested after they led officers on a high-speed chase through Camden County, Georgia. First Coast News learned in that investigation that three of the teenagers were wanted on murder charges. 

The driver of the car was only 12 years old.

Both are two very high-profile crimes that, for adults, could carry a harsh penalty if found guilty and sentenced.

However, there's a trend involving teenagers and crime that's starting to become far more noticeable.

“Juvenile crime has risen since the last year or so and it's more violent," former Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Detective Kim Varner says.

He thinks less parental supervision, and the breakdown of the family unit is more prevalent than ever. First Coast News Crime and Safety Expert Mark Baughman agrees it's one of the main contributing factors of the recent uptick.

“They end up gravitating to older individuals on the street that lead them down this path of violence, predominantly getting into gangs. Sometimes those are gang initiation type activities: stealing cars, doing home invasions, things of those nature… that's very, very typical of indoctrination into a gang is to commit forcible felonies.“

The great debate really is: What will help trends go in the right direction? Changes in incarceration or intervention?

The two retired law enforcement agents fall on different sides of the aisle on this issue.

While Varner has, over the years, mentored misguided youth himself, he believes the law still needs to be stricter on juveniles for certain offenses.

“Because if they're carrying a firearm, they get taught with it. They’re carrying a firearm because one day they're going to use it," Varner said. "So, if we made this the penalty stiffer for just carrying a firearm, to stop them from carrying them, that will cut back on some of the juveniles shootings and homicides.”

However, Baughman believes more funding needs to go into intervention programs.

“Incarcerating them is not the answer. It's the old saying, it's a lot easier to educate a child than fix an adult," Baughman explained. "We need to find these programs that are going to have preventative measures put in and mentoring programs, and support them as much as we can.”