LEE COUNTY, Fla. - WINK News investigates recent reports of kids arrested for shocking crimes. They include killing other teens and even their own parents. We wanted to know if teen violence was suddenly getting worse, so we sifted through the numbers to uncover the answer.
In December 2010, 14-year-old Alex Crain was arrested and charged with killing his parents in Golden Gate Estates.
A month later, in January, Jorge Saavedra, also 14, was accused of stabbing a classmate to death at their bus stop in Golden Gate Estates.
Then in February four teenagers from North Fort Myers Academy for the Arts went before a judge, accused of making death threats against a fellow student, on Facebook.
And most recently, two ten-year-olds in Lee County were arrested for a plot to stab and burn a fellow classmate.
The judge presiding over juvenile cases in Lee County, the Honorable Bruce Kyle, has seen some of these cases go through his courtroom. But as far as an increase in the serious, felony cases, such as murder or attempted murder, he doesn't see an increase in his court.
"I think the number has been pretty static lately," Judge Kyle told WINK.
The numbers appear to back him up. We took a look at the statistics for violent crimes committed from 2006 to 2010.
2006 - 1,709
2007 - 1,369
2008 - 1,344
2009 - 1,390
2010 - 902
In 2006, there were 1,709 violent crimes. The number of violent crimes declined steadily until 2009, then dropped sharply in 2010, going from 1,390 in 2009 to just 902 in 2010. That's a 35 percent drop.
As for murders and attempted murders, there were five in 2006, seven in 2007, then three in both 2008 and 2009, and two last year.
Despite the decline in violent crimes, Judge Kyle says any serious crime, "...should be concerning to everybody. and it goes down to more of an education issue, I think, and making sure we have enough proper resources here in the county to address those issues."
And Judge Kyle's advice to parents:
"Just be involved with your juvenile at home. The more you know about who they're hanging out with, what they're doing and you set curfews, things like that, probably, the less likely they'll end up in any trouble."
When we were in Judge Kyle's courtroom, we saw a number of kids being offered "diversion programs" instead of going to trial. Diversion programs include things like community service, counseling or classes. Kids who complete these programs will have the charges dropped from their record. Click here to learn more about the different types of diversion programs.