Groups work to help at risk youth in Chattanooga

HAMILTON COUNTY, Tenn. (WDEF) — After a 14-year-old is accused of shooting two teenagers outside of Riverbend, juvenile court judges say cases like this are becoming more common.

With kids out of school, it’s busy at Youth and Family Development centers in Chattanooga. They have a program called Teen Empowerment to help at risk youth.

“We meet here as a place for them to just be a teenager. It is not a school. It is not a church it is enrichment,” said Joe Hunter, a program coordinator with the Youth and Family Development Centers.

This past weekend, Chattanooga Police say a 14-year-old shot two 13-year-olds outside of the Riverbend festival.

He was charged him with Attempted Murder, Aggravated Assault, and Possession of a Firearm in the Commission of a Felony.

“When I hear about teenage shootings in this city and in Memphis. I usually know the shooter and the victim. In the latest case, I do know the victims. I don’t know the shooter. I still mentor them. They still need Uncle Joe.They still need some help,” Hunter said.

At the Hamilton County Juvenile Court, Judge Rob Philyaw says recently they’ve seen a slight increase in crime involving teens.

“What is more alarming and what is more concerning is the number of more serious even violent types of incidents that should cause us all alarm,” Judge Philyaw said.

Judge Rob Philyaw says the goal of juvenile justice is rehabilitation.

“What can we do to try to ensure that that young person learns from their mistake and hopefully does not reoffend in a similar or worse situation?” Judge Philyaw said.

At Youth and Family Development centers, they won’t stop mentoring kids.

“We keep putting the resources in place to do intervention and prevention in the proper way and we will raise some kids to be productive adults,” Hunter said.

Judge Philyaw says last year there were more than half a dozen murder cases in the Hamilton County Juvenile Court system.

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