DAYTON — A recent high-profile case of armed teens accused of robbing a cellphone store is raising concerns about a wave of youth crime.
Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer is speaking out about how big the problem is and why it needs to change.
In Dayton and across the county, law enforcement has identified juvenile gangs with as many as 100 members.
“They’re organized, they’re friends. They’ve been terrorizing our community too long; law enforcement has had it,” the sheriff said.
Plummer said the recent robbery of the Huber Heights AT&T store is the latest example of the problem.
Huber Heights police say seven masked teenagers, all with guns, rushed inside, forced customers and employees to the ground, threatened them and stole from the safe.
“It’s time for some accountability. I understand they’re kids, but they’re acting like young men, committing crimes with guns,” he said.
Police tracked down all seven teen suspects within an hour.
Huber Heights detectives are comparing notes with other law enforcement agencies, including police in Springfield, who believe some of the same teens may have been involved in a Verizon store robbery there two weeks earlier.
“I have cellphone store owners calling me scared to death of this crew,” Plummer said.
But Plummer said those teens are the tip of the iceberg.
His detectives have identified at least six separate gangs of teens with up to 100 members. The groups engage in carjackings and also are responsible for dozens of home break-ins, stealing game systems and guns. They also have been known to target gun stores, and of course, phone stores.
“No one wants to speak up about it. I’m speaking up on it for all law enforcement. We’re tired of it. We demand accountability,” he said.
The sheriff said parents, families, schools, the court system and communities must all join with law enforcement to attack a problem that is becomeing overwhelming. He said teens who engage in violent crime have to pay a price.
“Our goal is not to lock everybody up, but we want to lock up people that are putting people’s lives at risk,” Plummer said.
The sheriff said juvenile justice centers may have to change their approach. He said they may not be equipped to deal with teens who act just like adult criminals.
Our partners at the Dayton Daily News go in depth looking at youth gangs in our area. That special report is in Sunday’s Dayton Daily News.