KTTH OPINION

Gross: Law enforcement fear crime spike among youths during summer

Jun 23, 2023, 3:16 PM | Updated: Jun 24, 2023, 7:52 am

WA youth crime...

Thurston County Sheriff vehicle (KIRO 7)

(KIRO 7)

Youth crime concerns continue to rage on around the region and one local sheriff anticipates trends will get worse this summer.

Thurston County Sheriff Derek Sanders has a multitude of concerns as the months approach now that schools are out of session, leaving many kids operating with little to no supervision for the next several weeks.

“It’s definitely problematic,” Sanders told The Jason Rantz Show on AM 770 KTTH. “We’re also seeing a huge issue with youth opioid use, specifically fentanyl, and the deaths that are occurring as a result. So it is a concern.”

Social media plays an active role in the lives of most kids. Criminal elements are popular on these sites, whether it is posting videos of illegal activities or the ‘Kia Boys’ TikTok trend displaying how to easily steal a car.

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“Washington state has come to a point where the criminal element is kind of celebrated,” Sanders said. “It’s funny to run from the police. It’s funny to watch them pull over and able to drive off recklessly. We’re finding that a lot of people like to Snapchat it, post it to social media, and laugh about it.”

Problems like this are far from novel in Thurston County. Local leaders across the region are looking for ways to keep kids out of trouble — especially in the summer months. Tacoma, which has been hit hard during the recent youth crime wave, has announced its ‘Summer Teen Late Nights’ program through its Metro Parks division.

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This program runs from June 26 through September 1, every night of the week. Kids will be able to engage in activities and get free meals. Solid programs like this could help make a small dent in crime numbers.

Obviously keeping kids occupied will help but there are other components. Sanders said it is important for kids in the community to have positive role models. The sheriff knows from personal experience.

“When I did not have either a positive male role model or role model at all, it was very clear that my behavior was, was basically it was going right along with that,” Sanders told the Jason Rantz Show. “As soon as I got my biological father in my life, my behavior automatically corrected. I had that positive male role model.”

More from Max Gross: Lack of driver’s ed programs putting families in a pinch

Continued investment in youth will pay off whether it is in Thurston County or Tacoma. Hopefully, this summer’s headlines will not be dominated by stories of youth committing crimes.

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3 – 7 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Gross: Law enforcement fear crime spike among youths during summer