So far this year, the city of Fort Wayne has seen 20 homicides. Five juveniles were arrested, according to data compiled by the Fort Wayne Police Department
Are the victims and suspects getting younger, or does it just seem that way?
“From year to year, we can have a slight elevation,” says Sgt. David Klein, one of two FWPD sergeants who lead the homicide unit. “In terms of homicides, we haven’t had a huge spike.”
Numbers Klein reported do show a spike in juvenile homicide arrests this year compared to the preceding two years. As of Oct. 7, out of 20 city homicides, the department has made five juvenile arrests out of 22 suspects. Two of this year’s victims were juveniles.
“This year, right now, about 22% of our suspects have been juveniles,” Klein said. “Compared to 2021, we had zero. In 2020, we had about 5% of our suspects. But then again, we’re not all the way through 2022.”
Nationally, there’s been a huge spike in teenage homicide victims. And locally, Sgt. Gary Hensler with FWPD’s Gang & Violent Crimes Unit said his officers think “that violent crimes are being committed by more youthful offenders than in years past.”
The U.S. Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention shows that the number of youth homicide victims skyrocketed by 47% in 2020, the latest year for statistics reported.
Last year, there were 42 city homicides, zero juvenile homicide suspects, but six juvenile victims. In 2020, out of 42 city homicides, there were two juvenile arrests and one juvenile victim, Klein said.
Where are juveniles getting guns?
“It can be a variety of places,” Klein said in a sitdown interview last week. “It can be from other juveniles. We have stolen firearms. It can be a handful of places. They can be exchanged for narcotics. There are a lot of different variables on where juveniles can get them.
“Gangs come into it, narcotics play into some of these investigations. It can be a handful of variables,” Klein said.
Hensler said the Gang Unit is “seeing a larger amount of improperly obtained firearms in youths than ever before. Statistics show a much larger amount of arrests for dangerous possession of firearms by minors so far in 2022 than in 2021, as well as more arrests for firearms on school property. Some laws have recently changed and there have been court opinions on what charges to use for youth firearms arrests. Stats can be misleading. Are there actually more minors with guns or are police and school officials doing a better job interdicting it? Maybe both.”
The guns used are also of high quality, Hensler added.
“The guns we are seizing in arrests are trending to higher dollar, higher caliber weapons than in the past,” Hensler noted. “We used to seize Hi-points, and Raven, junk guns. Now, we only see higher end, like Glock and higher dollar rifles. Criminal youth and young adults used to have more limited means of obtaining firearms illegally than they do now.,” Hensler said.
So what’s the solution? Both Klein and Hensler said more parental involvement is needed to control this violence.
“Police enforcement is only one small part in curbing the gang / gun violence in our youth,” Hensler said, based on his years of experience as an officer. “More/ better parental & family involvement in the at-risk youths’ lives, more community involvement, outreach, and opportunity. More feeling of obligation to come forward and report criminal activity observed. More involvement and investment in school scholastic and extra curricular activities, etc,” he wrote in a list of help needed.
“More (help) outside our immediate control: more responsible behavior from movie makers, recording artists and video game makers who continue to glorify violence and death. ”
Clearance Rate: 86%
Juvenile Arrests: 2
Clearance Rate: 83%
Juvenile Arrests: 0
Clearance Rate: 80%
Juvenile Arrests: 5
Homicide victims are also trending younger in the county, according to data obtained from the Allen County Coroner. WANE chose to compare the numbers of victims 21 and under.
Last year, there were 49 homicides with 18 victims 21 or younger. More than a third, at 37%. It was the same percentage in 2021.
Here are the last 10 years with number on homicide victims provided by the Allen County Coroner.
|YEAR||No. of Homicides||No. of Victims 21 and Under||% age|