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Law enforcement experts weigh in on uptick in juvenile crimes across Twin Cities

"What's happening there is happening all around the country," said David Thomas, a forensic studies professor at Florida Gulf Coast University.

MINNEAPOLIS — It's a scene playing out time and time again across the Twin Cities, and the entire country.  

From shootings and armed robberies to assaults and carjackings, kids and teens are committing violent crimes placing both their own lives and the lives of others in danger. 

"What's happening there is happening all around the country," said David Thomas, a Forensic Studies Professor at Florida Gulf Coast University. 

The latest incident occurred on Monday near Olson Memorial Highway with a then 12-year-old, now 13 allegedly behind the wheel of a stolen Kia. The youngster led law enforcement on a high-speed pursuit, crashed into another motorists and then careened into a bus shelter, injuring a man inside. 

Five other teens were also in the car. 

The 13-year-old is now facing 6 felony charges from criminal vehicular operation to fleeing police. It's a situation that comes as no surprise to Thomas. 

"Not today, the crimes have become more violent over time," said Thomas. 

The explosion of young people increasingly involved in violent crimes is something Thomas says can be attributed to organized crime and beefs on social media. 

"If there is a shooting, you literally can go back and pull up Facebook and you can start to track and see just how they got there," explained Thomas. "And if it's a group like which was involved in this incident, in the crash I would dare say that that is something that they have collectively, had gotten together and decided to do, and as a result that's why you see the crime spree."

Calls for a restructuring of the juvenile justice system nationwide are growing, and a new approach is something Hennepin County Sheriff Dawanna Witt says is needed. 

"I believe in prevention, I do believe in intervention programs but we also have to acknowledge that once that threshold is crossed, there needs to be accountability," said Sheriff Witt.

Thomas says there's another problem; Many of the kids that go into the system often come out worse than they went in. 

"There have to be stem programs, there has to be education that actually shows them, not just shows them, that ties them into something beyond, this doesn't mean anything to me," said Thomas. "Teaching kids how to make good decisions, showing them how their schoolwork translates into real work.”

Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty and other leaders believe that Minnesota needs more places that can rehabilitate these young kids so they don’t need to be sent out of state to programs or released to next of kin, without any intervention. 

Moriarty has been increasingly under fire for what many believe is a soft approach with juveniles who commit crimes. 

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