Violent youth crimes more aggressive, intense in nature, Clark County DA’s office says

Brigid Duffy with the Clark County DA's office spoke with FOX5 first regarding the spotlight on juvenile violence.
Published: Feb. 9, 2022 at 6:53 PM PST
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LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -- Reported incidents of on-campus violence by students sent shock waves through the Clark County School District last week.

One disturbing act of a girl repeatedly striking another girl’s head with her fist was caught on camera and was shared widely online. But the valley’s leading experts say it’s a much bigger issue than these recent high-profile incidents.

A county official said Wednesday they are currently seeing juvenile acts of violence that are more aggressive in nature, compared to past years.

FOX5 first told you about this concerning trend on Monday, when Brigid Duffy, chief of the Juvenile Division for Clark County’s District Attorney office, said they were seeing an increase in on-campus violence at the start of the school year.

“What we are seeing is the intensity of those violence acts has increased,” said Duffy. “The aggression is way more intense than we have seen it in the past.”

She said their office staff’s assessments show that these crimes are most commonly resulting from an untreated mental health ailment.

“There is a mental health component to it with the perpetrator,” said Duffy. “So we are definitely seeing a crisis within our state around children’s mental health. ... You can see that anger, that lack of empathy, like everything just coming out. And it’s different than what we’ve seen in the past.”

After Monday’s story aired, the DA’s office was inundated with messages, according to Duffy, from people with concerns and who were asking for more transparency.

Duffy said pandemic-related traumas are also a factor in this crisis.

How is justice brought to victims of violence, and intervention on the young perpetrator?

In regards to the Feb. 2 video showing an attack inside a Las Vegas High School classroom, CCSD Police Sgt. Bryan Zink said the female attacker now faces a misdemeanor battery charge, but said it could be upgraded once it’s learned what the extent of the victims injuries are, as the AP reported.

Duffy confirmed this process.

“When that victim seeks medical attention, and we receive information that there was a concussion, or potentially a broken nose that was not obvious, these are all examples of things that have come through the system before, then, at that point, we take that misdemeanor, and then would charge the felony, substantial bodily harm,” said Duffy.

She explained how the sentencing process works. “At that point, it could be anything from probation, to placement in a youth correctional facility, much like Spring Mountain Youth Camp, Caliente, Summit View, so it all depends,” said Duffy. “And the courts make that ultimate determination.”

Duffy added that the DA’s office is able to argue for a harsher sentence, but again: it is ultimately up to the court.

“It oftentimes depends on ... how many times we’ve seen this juvenile in our system before,” said Duffy.

Duffy said the DA’s office provides free wraparound mental health services to the victim of violent youth crimes.

“Wrapping our juvenile victims in trauma services and getting them in counseling as soon as possible will help us to address this mental health crisis we have in our state,” said Duffy.

Experts also said that it’s important to educate yourself on how to recognize warning signs that someone may be struggling with their mental health. Some emotional signs include persistent sadness, drastic mood changes, withdrawing from friends and family, outbursts or extreme irritability.

Some physical signs include weight loss, frequent headaches or stomach aches, and poor performance, like if their grades are dropping.

The county also operates several Harbor locations, which are said to provide a “safe place for guidance,” specifically for kids and teens, with free wraparound mental health services. They also provide counseling, truancy prevention, mentoring, tutoring and more.