Community Activists Rally for Juvenile Justice Reform as Teen Crime Surges in Charlotte

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina – Community activists in Charlotte are calling for a reassessment of juvenile charging laws in the wake of a recent increase in teen crimes. The demand comes after a vigil was held in west Charlotte to commemorate a senior from Myers Park High School who was fatally shot at a house party. While law enforcement sources suggest the shooting was accidental, the tragedy highlights the need for action.

According to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department’s annual crime report, there has been a surge in juvenile crime in the area. In response, local organization West Boulevard Ministry is advocating for a reevaluation of how juveniles are charged in North Carolina. Charles Robinson, from West Boulevard Ministry, believes that the current system is contributing to the rise in teen crime, stating, “These kids are out of control because some of the homes are broken, as well as the courthouse are broken.”

West Boulevard Ministry aims to mentor and guide youth in the West Boulevard corridor to prevent them from getting caught in a cycle of crime. Robinson and Bart Noonan, also from the organization, have observed alarming trends. Shooting incidents involving juveniles increased by 18% in 2023, with the number of arrests for such crimes rising by 33%. Additionally, property crimes, fueled by juvenile offenders, have seen a significant uptick. Instances of break-ins involving juveniles rose by 86%, while youth arrests related to auto thefts spiked by 120%.

In light of these distressing statistics, West Boulevard Ministry is advocating for a revision of the state’s “Raise the Age” policy, which currently treats 16-year-olds as adults in the criminal justice system. The organization proposes that the age should be lowered back to 16 from the current 18, in order to provide a stronger intervention for troubled youth. Robinson emphasized the urgent need for action, stating, “At what point do we as a community say enough is enough…we got to go back and revisit this thing with juvenile crime.”

The tragic loss of the Myers Park High School senior, Avyon Thomas, serves as a reminder of the urgent need for change. As the community mourns, Thomas will be laid to rest at St. Paul Baptist Church on Saturday at noon. These recent events highlight the growing concerns over escalating teen crimes in Charlotte and the pressing need for lawmakers to address this issue swiftly and effectively.