- Associated Press - Saturday, February 6, 2016

ROCKFORD, Ill. (AP) - Rockford last year saw a 24 percent surge in violent crimes, driven by rising youth violence and crimes involving guns, police in Illinois’ third-largest city said.

Rockford had nearly 2,500 violent crimes last year, a 24 percent increase from 2014 that was caused by juvenile violent crime, including robberies and auto thefts.

A gang of teenagers engaged in an increasingly violent series of armed robberies, car hijackings and auto thefts last spring and summer, the Rockford Register Star reported (http://bit.ly/20gJB6y ).

“We have some groups we know who are engaging in the robberies and auto thefts, and it’s all tied together,” the city’s assistant deputy chief, Doug Pann, said Friday.

Police are working to bring youth violence prevention programs to the region in conjunction with the Department of Justice. Arrests of juvenile suspects, meanwhile, have filled the Winnebago County Juvenile Detention Center beyond capacity with juvenile detainees sleeping on mattresses inside a gymnasium.

Ald. Venita Hervey said solving Rockford’s crime problems will take a concerted effort among law enforcement partners and others in the northern Illinois city to address economic and social conditions that breed poverty, despair and broken families.

Hervey said there should be more ways to hold parents responsible for their children’s actions.

“These 14-, 15-, 16-year-olds are not at home at 2 a.m. and there is no one at home paying attention to the fact they aren’t there,” she said.

City officials including Mayor Larry Morrissey are questioning if those arrested and charged with gun crimes are facing stiff enough punishments. He’s calling for partnerships with the criminal justice system to better monitor sentences and their results to keep violent criminals off the streets.

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Information from: Rockford Register Star, http://www.rrstar.com

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