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'Teens' becoming big problem for New Orleans

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Published on Jan 22, 2012

NEW ORLEANS- Police say teens as young as 14 are committing robberies Uptown. And they're concerned that a new generation of criminals is hitting the streets.

As a group of teens plays basketball after school next to the second district police station Friday night, the officers inside are investigating crimes they believe were committed by teens who are hitting the streets.

Sgt. Chris Billiot, of NOPD's 2nd district, said police have identified or arrested at least 20 teens in the last two weeks for robberies or burglaries Uptown.

"We feel like we're doing what we can to prevent it, and it just keeps coming through and the more that there's youthful offenders, that's a whole new set of individuals we haven't dealt with yet," said Billiot.

The largest group of arrests came last Friday when a man's laptop was stolen at Prytania and Valence streets.

Nine teens were arrested in connection with that crime.

Billiot said those teens were not from the Uptown area and instead lived as far away as the 9th Ward and New Orleans East.

Last week, officers witnessed 4 teens trying to pull the bars off the window of a home in the 2500 block of Amelia Street. Police believe some of those teens are associated with Latesha Williams, 17, who was arrested for her suspected role in one of a series of Carrollton Avenue muggings, in which a group of teens used pepper spray while they robbed people.

On Tuesday, police arrested a teen girl for allegedly stealing a woman's cell phone at Arabella and Hurst streets- too close for comfort for longtime New Orleans resident Allen Kirkley.

"When it gets to where it's a block away or right on the street corner outside your home, it's obviously a cry, a cry to the politicians and the leaders of this community to step up and deal with the realities that we're facing right now," said Kirkley.

In an effort to keep teens off the streets, the city began giving it's midnight basketball program another try just last week. And police continue to work with school resource officers.

But as a criminologist Tulane University, Dr. Peter Scharf says it will take much more.

"In some of the schools we hear reports of planning drivebys and robberies in lunch, you know, and this is part of the culture, this is how you make money," said Scharf. "For these kids, this is the career path."

Scharf is working with the RSD to find ways to help at-risk teens. Meanwhile, the city council is expected to consider a city-wide curfew for those 16 and under. It would mirror the controversial new curfew in the French Quarter.

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