COMANCHE CO., Okla_ A 29-year veteran of the Comanche County Juvenile Bureau said goodbye.
Friday, community members, coworkers and citizens of Lawton honored Director Rick Lowe at a reception at the courthouse. Lowe began at the bureau in 1984, starting as a probation officer. He worked his way through the ranks, and in 1998, he became the bureau director.
Lowe said that contrary to popular belief, the number of juvenile crimes has actually decreased since he began working at the bureau. However, he also said the types of crimes juveniles are committing has changed dramatically, only making matters worse.
"When I first started here, our typical case was a kid stealing a bicycle, stripping it, and changing the parts out," Lowe said. "We were trying to frustratingly figure out what part belonged to what bike and how to work with that kid."
The crimes kids today are committing are much worse in nature.
"Unfortunately, now we see more serious crimes including kids that kill," Lowe said. "That is obviously disheartening."
While the number of overall cases may be down, Lowe said that juvenile crimes are still a major problem. It's one that sometimes spreads from one generation to the next.
"Being in this business as long as I have, the sad part is seeing generations of kids come back through," Lowe said. "Kids that I worked with are now having kids of their own coming through, which is obviously disappointing."
This week, Lawton saw its 11th homicide. The victim was 17, his suspected killer was 18, and three other juveniles were arrested. It's not just a local problem, though. Nationwide, juvenile crimes are becoming more violent.
"I think that it is just the nature of our society and the availability of firearms, the means in which a lot of kids are raising themselves, lack of caring responsible adults who set the boundaries for them, and sadly enough, all those things come together and create perfect conditions for a kid to go to that path," Lowe said.
Lowe is proud of how Lawton has come together to address its problems with juveniles during his tenure. He said he hopes Lawton will continue to see the value.
"If we can make an impact on those kids early on, while they are young, before they commit the really heinous crime, or before they are old enough to go to prison, we save a life," Lowe said. "We save taxpayers thousands and thousands of dollars."