Gangs leaning on teens because they are tougher to prosecute

Police leaders concerned juvenile gang members are tied to uptick in violence

Fresno, Calif. - Recent violence in Fresno has involved teens tied to gangs and now law enforcement leaders say gangs are leaning on juveniles because the penalties they face are less severe. In a span of less than 24 hours two 17-year-olds were shot in the upper body and taken to the hospital in critical condition in Fresno gang related attacks.

There have been more than 500 shootings in Fresno this year and Chief Dyer is concerned about how many guns are ending up in the hands of young teens and the motivation behind their gang related attacks. 

"We had two juveniles shot this week, two juveniles shot last week, and it just seems to become more and more of the norm," said Chief Dyer. 

Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer is concerned about the trend of gang members involved in this violence getting younger and younger. He says under the law, juveniles have protections making them difficult to prosecute and older gang members know that. He fears it's an equation that will only lead to more tragedy and blood shed.  

"Firearms in the hands of the wrong people, no fear of consequences or no consequences at all and no value of human life we're going to end up with people shot in our city younger and younger," said Chief Dyer.

A few weeks ago, the police chief in San Jose voiced similar concerns after a crime spree involved a suspect as young as 11. 

"The answer isn't to lock them up and throw away the key and not give them a chance at life, but at the same time we need to hold the ones who are committing violent crimes accountable," said San Jose Police Chief Eddie Garcia. 

Attorney David Mugridge says these concerns are valid and there isn't an easy fix. 

"The people who are out there committing these crimes can take advantage of it and they will," said Mugridge. 

Mugridge believes the only way to stop minors from being involved in crime scenes like this is to reach them before the gangs do.

"I've had kids before who I've represented that honestly believe they don't even believe they are going to be alive by the age of 18, or they can't possibly get a job because they are going to prison they have lost all hope and that's something we can do something about, but we can't do it until we come together," said Mugridge. 

There have been 55 murders in Fresno this year, 29 of them have been gang related. The Fresno Police Department continues to use special response teams of officers to crackdown on the violence we've seen citywide. 

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