You already know that much of the nation is in the grip of a crime wave. A subset of that crime wave is a spike in crimes committed by children. After a decades-long decline, juvenile crime is back in a big way and taking a major toll, not just in America’s big cities. Today, we’re off to rural Florida where they’re dealing with one of the most shocking and horrific crimes committed by kids.
The following is a transcript of a report from “Full Measure with Sharyl Attkisson.” Watch the video by clicking the link at the end of the page.
Marion County Sheriff’s Deputy Paul Bloom drives us to a dirt road neighborhood in the middle of central Florida’s Ocala National Forest…where unthinkable tragedy unfolded last March.
Paul Bloom: They couldn’t decide if they wanted to do car burglaries or go rob somebody for their marijuana.
Bloom: Somebody heard a shot, and where they initially shot the first victim, and the car kind of rolls into a dumpster. Next body was found like right in here. From there, found the third victim’s body in the trunk.
Sharyl: A double homicide’s a big deal. And then now you have three.
Bloom: That was, and at that point I remember thinking, “I hope this is, this is it.”
Three victims — shot execution-style — just 16 and 17 years old. Then another stunner.
Sheriff Billy Woods (April 2023): We are shocked. Not only are the victims juveniles but the murderers are juveniles as well.
One of the accused killers — Christopher Atkins. Just 12 years old.
Sharyl: When I looked at the mugshots, one of the kids in particular, he looked like a baby.
Billy Woods: Mm-hmm.
Sharyl: His face just looked so young.
Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods.
Woods: I looked in the eyes of the mother of that 12-year-old, and it broke my heart down deep inside, to knowing the struggles of what she’s going through. It makes you wonder, as law enforcement, as what we see, what is the world going to turn out to be, beyond us?
Lisa Windsor: Layla was involved in softball.
Lisa Windsor is the grandmother of Layla Silvernail, one of the three shot in the head. She was left near a dumpster.
Windsor: It was shocking because, why would, especially why would a 12-year-old, have a gun to begin with?
In a twist, police say the three accused killers and the three victims were driving around together, plotting a night of crime to get marijuana.
Sharyl: Was it such a surprise to you that you found out she was associating with these other kids?
Windsor: It was a surprise to us, because Layla really wouldn’t really hang around kids like that. She wasn’t raised that way. She had a good head on her shoulders. I think personally she was dragged into this because she was a driver.
Across the country, children are increasingly committing, and becoming victims in, serious crimes.
The latest numbers put out by the FBI are more than three years old, but already in 2020, they showed murders committed by a single juvenile up 30%. Murders involving multiple juveniles up 65%.
More recent stats from local governments are as troubling. In Montgomery County, Maryland, juvenile violent crime went up 329% in 2023.
News headlines are flooded with horrible, real-life examples. In north Florida, an autistic teen brutally beats a teacher at school.
In Montgomery, Alabama, an 8-year-old is charged in an armed carjacking and police chase.
And in the nation’s capital, too many tragedies to count. An Uber driver killed by two girls, 13 and 15, who stole and flipped his car while he clung on. They’ll be released from custody when they’re 21.
More recently, five Washington, D.C. teens arrested in a four-month-long armed carjacking spree.
Five D.C. teens caught on video in a carjacking attempt, including a 13-year-old girl who’d allegedly committed a four-day spate of robberies.
And 12 and 13-year-olds reportedly tried to carjack an off-duty federal officer in Washington, D.C., who shot and killed the 13-year old, a repeat offender.
Davalio Anderson, now 19, was part of the juvenile crime wave starting at age 15, despite a having present mom, a comfortable home, and a private education.
Sharyl: What kinds of things were you doing?
Davalio Anderson: Grand theft, credit card theft, credit card fraud, possession of a firearm, discharge of a firearm, possession of marijuana.
Sharyl: What do you think made you go down that path?
Anderson: I was trying to follow the world, but the world’s always changing. So yeah, I can’t really fit into something that’s always changing and evolving. I guess like if I see like celebrities doing something or like people of a higher status, that would kind of make me like shift more towards like that image in a sense.
Sharyl: Bad behavior by famous people?
There may be general agreement there’s a crisis, but no consensus on what will fix it.
Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser declared a state of emergency last fall and proposed a crime-fighting package. It dials back on reforms that she says hampered police efforts.
Mayor Muriel Bowser: We can’t stop supervising kids. We can’t divert them when they’ve committed a crime. We can’t let children in the schools beat up teachers with no consequences. We’ve got to get our ecosystem back in track. We just do.
The Washington, D.C. mayor’s proposal includes reinstating police authority to declare temporary drug-free zones to stop people from gathering to traffic or use illegal drugs, and criminal penalties for directing and committing “organized retail theft.”
In New Orleans, Louisiana, where murders committed by children were up 40% last year, they have a plan to get judges and city council members working together on better ways to monitor juvenile criminals.
And in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where cases of children charged with homicide have more than doubled since 2021, the state legislature created a panel to propose better treatment to keep children from reoffending.
Sharyl: When we look at the nationwide concern over rise in juvenile crime, what do you think is the answer?
Woods: Accountability. We have to change that.
Marion County, Florida Sheriff Woods has given it a lot of thought.
Woods: And what the future holds, I don’t know. I don’t have no immediate solutions. I do know if we don’t change, it’s only going to get worse.
The three boys charged in the triple murder are awaiting trial. They’re charged as adults.
Sharyl: So they could be in prison for life.
Woods: That’s exactly right. At minimum. And truthfully, that’s where they should be.
Sharyl: Potential death penalty?
Woods: Yep. It’s on the table.
But today, we end on a hopeful note. Davalio and his mother say he’s managed to turn things around. He finished high school while in detention. And got accepted to Florida State University where he’s now studying psychology.
Anderson: I knew that I was lost, and I was trying to follow something that wasn’t right, and that’s when like I started to like actually pray and talk to God. Yeah, I started to pick up the Bible for the first time and read it, and that’s what like brought me peace and comfort in that situation.
Odester Halliburton: In my eyes, Davalio was just a phenomenal kid, excellent grades. I had faith that out of all this heartache that I was going through, at the end, it was going to be different. So, I just continued to pray and believed in him. I knew he was going to change. It was just a matter of time.
Sharyl (on-camera): In Maryland, where some of the worst juvenile crime spikes are happening, some officials say state reforms that dialed back on punishment for juveniles are making the problem worse.
Watch video here.