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Juvenile activity leads to arrests

POSTED: June 15, 2009 9:24 a.m.
Photo by Lauren Hunsberger/

Police officers said juveniles are often responsible for graffitti found around the community. Community volunteers, like those pictured above, then have to spend their time cleaning up the vandalism.

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Hinesville Police Chief George Stagmeier said when school is out and the weather is nice, it’s normal to see students out, walking on the streets and playing in droves.
He’s concerned, however, with recent activity that has spiked juvenile crime.
For May, HPD arrested 82 juveniles, compared with 38 in March of this year and 52 in February, numbers Stagmeier considers more average, even for this time of year.
“They’re used to eight hours of highly structured time and now they don’t have that. They have a lot of free time. The majority of them aren’t bad kids, they just have so much time,” the chief said.
More troubling, however, he said some of the offenders are really young. Middle school principals in the area agree they’ve seen troubling signs among students during school hours, which translates into even more trouble when out for the summer.
“We do see some kids starting to get involved in gangs,” Chris Garretson, principal of Snelson-Golden Middle School said. “I see a lot of things going on and we try to keep on top of the problem in the schools as much as we can.”
Garretson said he sees students of all grades bringing bandanas to school and talking about guns. He said at that age he also sees bad attitudes and resistance to authority starting to surface. It is these kids, he fears, who are going to get into trouble at an early age and get caught up in a dangerous cycle.
“A lot of times once they get started in that kind of activity, the juvenile system can only do so much for them,” Garettson said.
Stagmeier says punishing juveniles is a sticky issue. He said procedure dictates officer call parents and talk to them when their children are involved in activity that draws police. The kids are then usually released to their parents. If they do something severe or gain enough points (each minor offense adds points on their record), they might be held for a few days and then face a judge, but the outcome is usually still the same.
“The court decides the punishment and lots of times they’re released back to their parents. And they [the juveniles] know that. They know how the system works,” Stagmeier said.
Garretson and the chief agreed the young offenders are only partially to blame as their environment often dictates their behavior. They said the increasing number of juveniles getting involved in gangs or criminal activity is only part of a larger issue within the community.
“I think there’s adult stuff going on, too,” Garretson said.
 

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