OCALA, Fla. – The chief of the Ocala Police Department said Monday the entire community should be concerned about recent arrests involving children.
Chief Michael Balken said two 14-year-olds are facing murder and attempted murder charges following a shooting on March 25, 2022.
“They normalize and think it’s okay to pick up a gun and solve their problems,” Chief Balken said. “When you look at these kids and realize ‘My god this kid just killed somebody’ and then you look at a criminal history you realize, ‘Well he’s been arrested 20 times. Never served more than 20 days incarcerated,’ I think that’s telling.”
Ocala police also said Jarquareous Duncan, 17, fired a gun at a woman and her three children on March 19, 2022.
“A lot of these kids face recruitment efforts by older people in gangs to really prey on them and get them to commit criminal activities because they know they aren’t going to serve time,” Balken said.
Balken said politicians in Tallahassee pushing for a “soft on crime” approach regarding juvenile offenders, only empowers young criminals. He said law enforcement often times has no option other than to release an offender, only to have them commit a more serious crime soon after.
Parental involvement may also deter criminal activity, according to Balken. He encourages parents to pay attention to who their child hangs out with, adding it’s not the responsibility of the school system or law enforcement to raise someone’s children.