Back-to-back teen carjackings get community’s attention

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) — Separate groups of teens committed unrelated carjackings this weekend almost back-to-back. But organizations like the Bethlehem Center are fighting back – or rather, fighting for.

The Bethlehem Center says this is their mission: “Inspired by the gospel, we build lasting relationships with Chattanooga’s youth and families by encouraging spiritual growth, education, and leadership development.”

The Bethlehem Center’s Rachel DeVore says she’s seen consistent problems in Chattanooga’s youth over the past few years.

“If they’re not here, they’re going to be somewhere else being social, because kids are social creatures, especially highschoolers,” DeVore said. “And that socialness could be a gang, it could be carjacking. It could be all of those other things. And if they’re here, then they’re not going to be doing that.”

In fact, just this weekend separate groups of teens committed unrelated carjackings.

Some of them were as young as 13 years old.

“They want to be here. They want an alternative to that,” DeVore said.

Assistant Chief Sutton acknowledges the recent spike.

She says overall property crimes and crimes committed by juveniles are on a downward trend.

“Ultimately, it is up to the family to work with that child and work with those resources that are available to make sure that they stay on the straight and narrow,” Sutton said.

However, Rachel DeVore says the change has to come from the community.

“I think it’s recognizing that this comes from some place. Putting the blame where it needs to be, which is on systems, taking it off of the kids, taking some of it off of the parents. And just being there for each other,” DeVore explained.

The Chattanooga Police Department encourages anyone who has resources to seek out the organizations that provide services for youth.

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