MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. (WDVM) — Teen crime is on the rise across the country, and Montgomery County is reeling after three teen boys allegedly shot a man to death. Now people are asking how can minors, even as young as 14-years-old, commit such crimes?
Luis Cardona has been working with high-risk kids for almost 30 years. Now as the Administrator of the Positive Youth Development Program under the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services, says the situation is heartbreaking not only for the victim and their family but also for the families of the three teenage suspects.
“It’s really heartbreaking. You know, my heart goes out to the families of the victim but also thinking about the young people, they’re very young children. You know, they’re still children, right?” Cardona says.
In late April, police say 20-year-old Taon Cline was shot to death by teenagers, ages 14, 15, and 16 years old. Police arrested 15-year-old Malik Hney of Kensington and 14-year-old Justin Acosta of Germantown on May 3rd and arrested 16-year-old Malachi Hney on May 5th. Now, all three are facing murder charges and will be charged as adults.
“Well, it is a little concerning. The fact that we do have 14 and 15-year-olds who are committing adult crimes, and that is very concerning that this is happening especially in Montgomery County,” Shiera Goff, Public Information Officer for the Montgomery County Police, says.
Many are asking what is the solution to the problem of an uptick in teen crimes? Cardona says that breaking the cycle of violence starts at home.
“Families were not accustomed to being at home so much. And during that time, we were going out and engaging young people and just basically telling them, ‘Look, you’re putting your family to rest here. Go back home. You don’t want to infect your relatives,'” Cardona, explains. “And quite often, many of the children young people told us home was not a safe place.”
The Street Outreach Network has been supporting high-risk kids in the community through various programs like cooking classes and hiking and fishing trips since 2007. Cardona says it’s not only about supporting kids but also their families. He highlighted that the pandemic has had a devastating impact on the social and emotional well-being of children and young people that cannot be ignored.
“We don’t want this just to put band-aids on these young people and then for them to go back home,” Cardona explains. “For us, it’s how do we restore that normalcy and bring back those things that are fun during childhood, but then at the same time helped build the coping skills of children and young people, so they can process what they’ve experienced, and they can process it in a healthy way.”
The three teens are currently being held at the Montgomery County Central Processing Unit on first-degree murder charges. Goff says that the teens will initially be tried as adults because of the nature of the crime, but the case could be moved to juvenile court.