LEE COUNTY, Fla. - Crimes landing children behind bars are at an alarming rate in Florida. Figures show thousands of kids across the state are arrested every year, some even more than once.
Experts say violent crimes by juvenile offenders are the highest on school days after school hours. Typically the usual offenders are between 16 and 17 years old. Thieves breaking into your cars and homes may be as short as four feet tall. The youngest offender Lee County has ever seen is six years old.
Just last week, six kids were detained in Lehigh Acres for breaking into a 78 year old man's garage and taking soda's out of his refrigerator.
Four In Your Corner has chosen not to show the faces of each juvenile because all six are minors.
"Kids do what we call crimes of opportunity," Bill Naylor with the Juvenile Assessment Center (JAC) said.
The top misdemeanor arrests for juveniles in Lee County are for petty theft, domestic battery, and possession of marijuana. The most common felonies seen in the area are burglaries and grand larceny.
"Currently most of our programs have what we call 88% recidivism. They get arrested once and they don't come back," Naylor said. "It's that 12 percent we deal with and out of that 12 percent there's only about 8 percent of repeat offenders."
Experts say arrests are a result of kids either bored or associating themselves with peers who are a negative influence in their lives.
In 2016, there were more than 2,600 juvenile arrests in Lee County, this figure includes youth that may have been arrested more than once in the fiscal year. Males were arrested four more times than females, but the most alarming number of arrests happened nearly a decade ago.
"Since 2007-2008 our numbers are going down and they've gone down every year back in 07' and 08'. We had approximately 5,000 kids a year."
The Sheriff's Office offers certain prevention programs hoping kids won't become adult offenders or repeat an offense again at a young age.
The JAC also provides free drug test kits to Lee County parents to use as a drug prevention tool with their youth.