EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Numerous violent incidents involving teenagers happened this week in El Paso.
On Wednesday a shooting at the Cielo Vista Mall left one person dead and three others injured. The El Paso Police Department says those involved were teenagers to early 20’s.
Then on Thursday, a teenage girl was found dead in far east El Paso and the El Paso Police Department is asking the community for information.
Police say also on Thursday a 16-year-old was critically injured in a shooting in Northeast El Paso, and the suspect is a 17-year-old.
On Friday Pebble High School was placed on lockdown after reports of a social media post of a student with a weapon.
An El Paso attorney specializing in juvenile law says what’s concerning is the incidents are
“It used to be when I started practicing juvenile law, it was focused on maybe a few high schools that were the problem but now we are seeing it’s in every high school in every school district,” attorney Omar Carmona said.
He added that he’s seen an increase in gangs. Even if teens are not in gangs, they are associating with people who are, Carmona said.
“I think there are more gangs. Gangs are definitely recruiting younger children and so this is not at all surprising and if it’s not at a mall, it’s going to happen at a school. It’s going to happen at a park. it’s going to happen at a home,” said Carmona.
The El Paso County Juvenile Probation Chief Rosie Medina told KTSM that while violent felonies among youth are up over 40 percent in West Texas from 2021 to 2021, El Paso is not seeing that increase.
“As alarming as it is, it is teenagers and their committing offenses but based on the data it’s nothing that we haven’t seen before. Now potentially what we may be seeing is the heinousness of the offenses may seem more severe,” Medina said.
Medina says data from 2017 through the first quarter of the fiscal year 2023 shows El Paso has remained consistent with approximately 42 percent of the arrests that they receive in the department involving a violent offense.
“We did see a slight increase in homicides a few years back. We did see that increase but it’s plateaued. So for example, thus far in fiscal year 2023, we have not had a child come in on a homicide charge,” Medina said.
However, Carmona says he is personally seeing an increase in calls for teens involved in violent crimes at his law office.
“I always trust Chief Medina and Judge Gutierrez if those are the numbers they have. I’m telling you from what I’m seeing, definitely a spike in phone calls and consultations about violent offenses and weapons and then we still are dealing with the juvenile sex crimes, things like that,” Carmona said.