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Juvenile gun violence dropped last year around Tampa Bay, but data is spotty

Data on juvenile crimes is challenging to track because of privacy laws.

TAMPA, Fla. — Gun violence is a persistent issue nationwide, and the Tampa Bay area is not immune. Dozens of the shootings we've reported on so far this year have involved minors and teens.

On Memorial Day, an argument between groups of teens led to a shooting in Siesta Key.

In March, a 9-year-old girl was struck by a stray bullet in Tampa – a bullet fired by a 15-year-old boy.

Shootings involving kids make headlines but are difficult to track. 

According to FSU Associate Professor of Criminology and Former FBI Agent, Bryanna Fox, there are a few reasons why. 

"Number one, the national data on crime usually lags at least a year behind. The second thing is that it's very difficult to get a hold of data that's on juvenile offenders," Fox said.

Fox explained the only way juvenile-involved shootings are tracked is at the local level. With that in mind, Crime Tracker 10 turned to the sheriff's departments in each county we cover (Hillsborough, Pinellas, Polk, Pasco, Sarasota, Manatee, Citrus, Hardee, Hernando, and Highlands) for data. 

Credit: 10 Tampa Bay

Several counties said they did not track or could not process this data for us.

In most that did, there was a slight drop in teen-involved shootings from 2020 to 2021. Hillsborough, our most populous county, saw the most with 56 in 2020, and 52 last year.

(Note: Hillsborough could not process data to distinguish whether the juvenile was a victim or suspect in those cases. Other counties provided data in which the juvenile was the shooter specifically.)

"Across all different types of crime, the most prevalent age group is teenagers and young adults," said Fox. She points to an "age crime curve," which shows the bulk of all crime is committed by people between their mid-teens and mid-20s.

Credit: 10 Tampa Bay

Fox said, as people age, there's a natural drop off in committing crime as many people get married and find stable jobs.

And there's another key reason juvenile gun violence persists. 

"The second thing we see is that there's a broader availability of guns and there's more of a market for guns," Fox said.

According to FBI data, approximately 1.4 million firearms were sold in Florida last year. It was the highest number of any state, except for Texas, which sold 1.6 million.

"Research on gun crimes overwhelmingly suggests that the biggest predictor of gun violence is access to guns," said Fox. 

One way to curb this problem is to limit access to your gun by keeping it safe and locked away.

"So many people leave their guns in unlocked vehicles, parked in the driveway is, parked on the street," said Fox.

Tampa police have previously said thefts from unlocked cars are the number one way guns make it into the hands of people to whom they don't belong.

Crime Tracker 10 previously did a story on this crime trend, which you can watch by clicking here.

"The other thing is if they see something or someone who is saying something that may look like a risk factor, make sure you take it seriously and report it."

Tampa's new Police Chief Mary O'Connor says addressing violent crime is among her top priorities. 

The city and police department are actively working on summer programming to keep kids and teens busy and out of trouble. 

RELATED: Hundreds of guns stolen from unlocked cars in the Tampa Bay area

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