BENTON, La (KTAL/KMSS) – Members of state and local law enforcement and educators met Wednesday at the Bossier Parish Courthouse to discuss strategies for preventing juvenile crime.

“We have too many youths that are getting into some pretty major trouble, and, unfortunately, some of those kids are doing some heinous things, and it’s very much-publicized, and regarding juvenile justice, we need to make sure that we’re on top of it, “said Louisiana Office of Juvenile Justice Deputy William Sommers.

The room was full of passionate community leaders strategizing ideas for the youth to prevent crime.

Webster Parish School Board Superintendent Johnny Rowland says the last few years have seen the most significant increase in juvenile crimes.

“It seems though lately, especially since the spring of 2020 when the pandemic hit, it seems we’re hearing more horrific and violent things with our juveniles. “

The Ware Youth Center in Bossier City offers a place to stay for 21 kids, male or female, between the ages of 10 and 16. It provides them with religious services, health screenings, and recreational activities. The center’s Executive Director, Kenny Loftin, says the first step is admitting a problem with crime among the youth in Louisiana.

“I think we just need to focus on recognizing and doing something with these kids that are at an earlier age than when I get them at 12, 16, and 17 years of age, “he said.

Many ideas were discussed at the meeting, from midnight basketball events to a citywide curfew to curb juvenile crimes.

“It’s time for us to be proactive and put the things in place to help with constructive, positive things for our kids to do. Having things in our communities for kids to go to in the evening time, instead of just being out of the house and on the streets, “said Rowland.

Sommers also suggested follow-up meetings among community members to decide on programs for local youth.