BURLINGTON, N.C. (WHGP) — Burlington police want people living in the area to know more kids are committing serious crimes, and they need everyone to be a part of the solution.
Not much surprises Assistant Chief Brian Long. But, a 12-year-old joyriding in a stolen car was enough to raise an eyebrow.
“I don’t know the why behind it, but I know that what they’re doing is extremely dangerous and it needs to stop,” Long said.
Burlington officers got a call about a reckless driver along Apple Street on Thursday morning.
When they found the car from the call abandoned on the side of the road, investigators quickly found the 16-year-old and 12-year-old allegedly responsible for stealing it. They also learned the pair is connected to five more stolen cars from across the Triad, in Burlington, Gibsonville, and Greensboro.
“We want to make sure the public and parents at home recognize that’s not good, and that we need their help in curbing that,” Long said.
The uptick in crime committed by teens and young adults led the police department to hire a youth diversion coordinator at the beginning of 2020.
The coordinator takes a look at all the cases involving juveniles and sits down with the ones that qualify and haven’t committed non-diversion offenses to see how they can keep them out of the system.
The department helps kids who don’t qualify to meet with a diversion counselor with other community resources.
“That doesn’t mean that they get a freebee, we give them an opportunity to engage with a mentor, we connect them with a life skills coach and other ways we would like to invest in them to keep them from being an adult offender,” Long said.
The coordinator has worked with 100 teens and kids so far.
Long believes attacking and acknowledging the problem at a community level is the only way to get things under control.
“Just a law enforcement response won’t be effective,” Long said. “One that involves the community, involves parents having real conversations at a table together and finding ways to remove barriers to programming, that’s what we’re committed to here in Burlington.”
The Burlington Police Department is always searching for mentors to help kids who might be on a bad path. If you’re interested in becoming a mentor, reach out to the Burlington Police Department.