(KATV) Police in Central Arkansashave put a lot of young men behind bars lately in connection with a rash orarmed robberies. The suspects are as young as 16 to 25 years old. The age ofthese men who are committing crimes isn't surprising to police, but it seemsthere is a shift from burglaries to crimes of opportunity for the cash money.
Pictured, are some of thefaces of the men being held behind bars, suspected of armed robberies at conveniencestores and ATM machines. The recent robberies have happened in Little Rock, NorthLittle Rock, Pine Bluff and Saline County. The majority of them already have a rapsheet. Some will likely spend the rest of their lives behind bars forcommitting a murder during the theft.
Dr. Jeff Walker is the CriminalJustice Chair at UALR. He says, "People who start to get into the late 20's and30's usually start aging out of crime unless they're just going to be completelycareer criminals. So the age is about appropriate for what we're seeing."
Dr. Walker says cash (store) robberies are likely in an upswing, but it isn't cause for concern. "Especiallyin an economic environment such as we have, pawn shops aren't buying as much.People don't have that kind of money so you have to go where the money is andthat is the armed robberies."
Jason Lanier with PositiveAtmosphere Reaches Kids (P.A.R.K) says, "Studies have shown that kids joingangs because they don't feel loved, they don't have a place to go where theycan feel at home."
Lanier is the programdirector for the non-profit. It's a place for high risk kids to eat, buildconfidence and do homework after school. He adds, "Number one is relationships,feeling important and that they matter to someone."
Lanier says many of theseyoung men were likely headed in a troubled path years before their firstcriminal offense. "It's not going to fix it every time but I think if that kidor those kids who commit these robberies or these crimes. If they had somebodythey knew that was really looking out for them and say, this person wouldreally be upset if I do this."
Lanier recommends moreprograms or mentors because there is a strong link between failure in schooland a life of crime and prison.