WASHINGTON — DC Police report increasingly more juveniles being arrested for certain crimes. Kids say it’s easy to fall in with the wrong crowd.
At 12 years old, Rashad Bates has already lost friends to gun violence, including 15-year-old Gerald Watson and 11-year-old Karon Brown.
“I'm tired of losing people who I love the most,” Bates said. “It’s like your heart sank. Boom.”
Promise Ellis, 12, feels it, too.
“It’s a lot of stuff like guns, and it makes me not even want to be outside,” she said.
Some children have turned that pain on others.
While DC Police data shows that overall violent crime has decreased a bit since 2019, gun crimes are up.
When it comes to kids, arrest records show increases in certain offenses – mainly carjackings.
From July to December 2021, police arrested 72 juveniles for carjackings compared to 16 during that same period in 2019. That’s four times as many kids arrested.
Chief Robert Contee said last Monday that when it comes to robberies in 2022, they’ve already arrested more juveniles than adults.
“I used to post guns [on social media,] used to be in the streets -- not like that like in the street, but …,” Bates said giving a “you know what I mean” gesture. “I used to follow the wrong crowd. I used to be in stuff, getting shot at.”
Then, he met the anti-violence activist he knows as Miss Hardy, who helped him envision a different life.
That’s what her group "Guns Down Friday" does.
“I had to wake myself up. Stop trying to be like everybody else. Stop being a follower. Be a leader,” Bates said. “If you follow somebody, it’ll get you in the wrong place…like jail. It could get you killed.”
Now, Bates and other kids are mapping out better futures.
WUSA 9’s Jess Arnold and Tom Kopania stopped by a community event at D.C. United’s Audi Field, where kids were making vision boards.
Ellis said she wants to be a real estate agent, host, dancer and fashion/interior designer.
“I'm thinking about being a barber when I grow up,” Bates said.
He reminds his friends that they can grow up.
“Tell them I love them… Stop being a follower. Be a leader to the little kids,” he said. “Stuff that you're not supposed to be doing, stuff that the little kids see you doing, they gonna want to do it.”
Bates is asking people in charge to help.
“Change your community by getting kids like they own little place to stay, like they happy place, like building new playgrounds,” he said.
What they are envisioning is simple.
“I want myself to be safe,” Ellis said.
WUSA 9 asked DC Police for more specifics on juveniles being involved in crime this year and had to submit a public information request, so the team will share that data when it is released.