Community leaders concerned after recent robberies involving teenagers

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Wednesday morning just around 10 a.m. employees at the East Indianapolis Dollar General Store near 21st Street and Mitthoeffer Road hit the hold-up button. Two young boys came into the store and demanded money from the cashier using a gun.

The young robbery suspects did not get far from the Dollar General before police caught them with a weapon and the money.

Community activist and mentor Robert Jackson is seriously concerned about the recent pattern of kid robberies. Especially since in all of the cases, at least one of the youngsters is packing heat and displaying threatening behavior.

"He probably isn't even old enough to drive, doesn't probably even have a mustache yet! What made him bold enough to grab a gun and rob somebody," said Robert Jackson.

Metro Police have dealt with a number of crimes this week alone involving teenage suspects. Officers rushed to the 30th Street and North Keystone Avenue Family Dollar for an armed robbery Tuesday morning, just as school let out around 2:30 p.m. Employees told police two kids no more than 13 years old robbed them at gunpoint.

They got away, but didn't escape the store's security cameras. The same two boys may be frequent visitors to the Boys and Girls Club across the street from the store. Detectives will likely review security video from the store cameras to help identify the young criminals.

Jackson believes a large responsibility of the kids criminal behavior can be traced back to parenting. He has mentored hundreds of kids who sometimes lack the discipline that he believes starts in the household.

Jackson grew up in the Brightwood neighborhood with only his mother as his primary caregiver. He teaches there are no more excuses for children who blame single parent households for failing to succeed socially and educationally. Jackson attended and graduated college against all odds, despite some of his peers heading down the wrong path. He even holds an annual conference for boys talking about staying crime free and pursuing education.

"As a father of three, if my son is out here robbing people, I don't care how many cameras are around, I am going to deal with him,” said Jackson. "Everybody has to be accountable for their actions."

Jackson believes the same holds true for two teenage boys caught on camera Sunday night at this West 16th Street Taco Bell. The boys reportedly are recorded robbing Indy 500 Race Car Driver Scott Dixon and his passengers at gunpoint. A Metro Police officer spotted their getaway car a block away and eventually arrested 14 and 15 year olds from Northwest Community High School for robbery and resisting law enforcement.

Mentor and community activist Malichi Walker warns kids about making bad decisions. Walker has mentored boys from middle to high school for years at his church in a program called Young Men Incorporated. The recent line of robberies involving youth and guns disturbs him because in most cases, the parents have no clue their kids are even carrying weapons.

"Put the guns down. You can get the same thing without committing any type of crime," said Walker.

He fears the kids involved in the Dollar General robbery may be responsible for other crimes. He also thinks they may have been recruited by adult criminals.

As part of the investigation, police will check to see if the kids who robbed this Dollar General are responsible for any other robberies. Either way, they stand a chance of facing charges as adults.

Crime Stoppers of Central Indiana recently teamed up with Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett and other city leaders to offer cash rewards to people who help get illegal guns off the street.

People who call the Crime Stoppers hotline to report people with illegal guns can remain anonymous and earn hundreds of dollars in cash reward money. The Crime Stoppers hotline is open 24 hours a day 7 days a week at 317-262-TIPS. ALL calls are 100% confidential and callers remain totally anonymous.