Region 8 News Investigates: Endangering the welfare of a minor - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Region 8 News Investigates: Endangering the welfare of a minor

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Jonesboro Police work dozens of child endangerment cases each year.

Already this year, we've seen everything from parents leaving their children in hot cars to parents allegedly leaving their children home alone for weeks on end.

Region 8 News investigated child endangerment cases here in Jonesboro to find out what constitutes the degree of offense and what to do if you suspect child endangerment.

"Children are our most vulnerable population and their needs and welfare should be looked out for," Tracye Mosley-Walker told Region 8 News.

Sometimes, that doesn't happen and it's those responsible for taking care of the children who are to blame.

Mosley-Walker, a deputy prosecutor for prosecuting attorney Scott Ellington said the severity of endangering the welfare of a minor varies. 

Sometimes, suspects can be slapped with a misdemeanor and a fine, in other cases, the suspect might face a felony and jail time.

Mosley-Walker stressed that every case is different.

"You can't compare them all and say across the board, we're gonna do this on each case. It's not a one size fits all," Mosely-Walker said.

The most recent child endangerment case in Jonesboro involved a mother allegedly leaving her 14 and 15-year-old sons home alone for weeks on end. 

The teens told police their mother only stopped by every two weeks to drop off groceries and leave again.

According to that Jonesboro Police Report, the offense was listed as endangering the welfare of a minor in the third degree, a class B misdemeanor.

"Sometimes, officers are making decisions based on what they see at the time," Mosley-Walker explained. "You have to look at the parents, the child, what the circumstances were and make determinations what level to charge it."

For instance, if those teenaged boys had been under the age of 10, Arkansas statutes note the case could be upgrade to a 1st degree offense, making it a class D felony.

"We do see reasons that are quite sympathetic but the fact of the matter is that certain behaviors in certain age ranges, you can't leave children in certain circumstances, no matter what the reason is," Mosley-Walker said.

Sticking up for those children often falls on those close to the situation.

"Whether they're our children or not, it's our responsibility as neighbors, friends, church members, family members, to look out for the needs of children."

In 2013, 30 cases of endangering the welfare of a minor were reported to JPD. That's 21 less reported cases than in 2012.

Mosley-Walker said determining the degree of the offense often comes down to intent and whether the suspect purposely, knowingly or recklessly endangered the welfare of a minor.

Mosley-Walker said charges can be upgraded or downgraded during the course of an investigation depending on additional information that comes forward.

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