SPECIAL REPORT: Taking a look at juvenile crime

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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) -- Taking a look at crime rates, specifically with juveniles in our area, local experts offer solutions on how to help prevent juvenile crime in Bowling Green and Warren County.

"Over the past couple years I haven't seen a dramatic increase in the juvenile crime. There has been a steady increase," says Amy Milliken, Warren County Attorney.

There are several reasons as to why officials say they're seeing this trend.

"One of the primary reasons is there's more access to weapons," says psychologist and professor emeritus at Western Kentucky University, Bill Pfohl.

"I think a lot of that increase has to do with drug and alcohol use in juvenile cases," adds Milliken.

But she does have a solution in mind that she belives would help slow this steady increase.

Milliken says, "If I could do one thing to try to turn the trend around it would be to add drug court in the juvenile cases."

She goes on to say, "We are seeing today, a trend in burglary, where juveniles are breaking into homes, they're breaking into cars, they're breaking into garages, and they're stealing items, and what they're doing is they're selling those items, again going back to -- to sell them for drugs."

But she agrees not all crimes are linked back to drugs or alcohol, and that media -- specifically social media -- can also be a factor, with kids trying to copy others they see online.

"I would not want to grow up in this day and age, because everything you do as a child, as a juvenile, as a young teen, can be recorded. And they want people to talk about them and they want to be on the 6 o'clock news or they want to be on Facebook or Instagram or Snapchat like all these other kids that have committed crimes. That's certainly concerning to me," she says.

Pfohl agrees, saying, "I think some of the TV shows portray crime without a consequence so people think it's kind of cool or it would be interesting to try that because on TV and some of the social media, they never see that there is a consequence to that."

"You can't baby them for 18 years and then expect them immediately to turn around and say 'I'm going to be a productive member of society now.' It doesn't work like that," adds Milliken.

As a school resource officer, Deputy Mike Waldrop says the ways students communicate has shifted over the years.

"I've had to deal with several social media issues, where students have kind of lost how to talk with each other. They talk through social media," says Waldrop.

But as far as crime or juvenile violence, Waldrop says, "No, no I don't see any increase. Here at the Warren County School District and the Warren County Sheriff's Office, that's the main goal for the school resource officer is to be a resource for the students, so I think that program in itself is helping some of that here in Warren County."

Milliken, Pfohl, and Waldrop all agree that times have changed.

"It's amazing to me that within a 30 year time span, we've gone from fist fights to gun fights," says Milliken.

According to Pfohl, "I feel as a psychologist we're not really looking at the big picture. We seem to be trying to blame individuals when it's a society, family problem as well."

Milliken offers her advice and opinion about how to help prevent juvenile crime in our area.

"I have to go back to the need for early intervention with these kids. And they're kids. You can call them juveniles, you can call them whatever you want, they're kids," she explains.

Milliken goes on to say, "The sooner you get to that juvenile and let them know there are consequences to every action you take, the better they will be as an adult."

Milliken says her office sees anywhere from four to 20 cases each week that qualify for a County Attorney review, meaning it's a third misdemeanor or a felony charge.

Across the board, experts say early intervention is key in preventing juvenile crime, and they say that intervention can begin as early as preschool.

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