Why are so many Southwest Georgia youths committing crimes?

Surveillance video

The teenager accused of murdering an Albany convenience store clerk in December made his first court appearance today.

16-year-old Anthony Hill is charged with murder and aggravated assault in the shooting death of 19-year-old Sentos Vicente.

Investigators contend that Vicente is one of the men shown in surveillance video from the Miscelanea Guate-Max store on Radium Springs Road.

Hill will be tried as an adult but because he is a juvenile, the Dougherty County Jail will not release his photo.

Surveillance Video from Homicide

Hill's arrest is the latest in a rising tide of violent crimes committed by juveniles.

It also has many in Albany wondering about why so many young people seem headed in the wrong direction.

According to experts, too many young people have never developed a sense of responsibility.

They're being left on their own and with all the negative influences in society today, it's a recipe for trouble.

"Juvenile crime has been on the rise for quite some time," said Captain Craig Dodd of the Dougherty County Sheriff's Office.

Dodd is seeing more and more young people on the wrong side of the law.

"There's a lot of bad influences on the street, in the form of gangs, older kids that are not attending school like they're supposed to," said Dodd.

He also believes popular culture is a big part of the problem.

"The type of music they listen to, some of the role models they have, that are absolutely horrible role models, and those include athletes and people in the entertainment industry," said Dodd.

Andy Martin of Insight Psychotherapy spends a large portion of his time counseling parents and troubled youths.

He says many youths suffer because parents are not involved in their lives.

"Lack of supervision, hands-off parenting, no role models, no discipline," said Martin.

That missing sense of responsibility can lead to serious social problems â" including an absence of concern for fellow human beings.

"The idea that there are certain things I can't do just doesn't exist with a lot of young people today," said Martin.

Experts say that whether they realize it or not, young people need rules and structure. And if they can't get them at home, they'll go looking for them someplace else.

"Look at what's in the media - TV shows, prison shows, whatever else â" and they talk about the way gangs are," said Martin. "There are very clear rules."

"Everyone needs to have something they feel they belong to," said Dodd.

Martin recommends drawing up a set of rules for children and, as much as possible, involving them in deciding what those rules will be.

That way, young people play a role in their own discipline.