Over the weekend, the News Bulletin learned that the suspect in two Sept. 15 robberies — and possibly a string of similar incidents — was a teenager.

Over the weekend, the News Bulletin learned that the suspect in two Sept. 15 robberies — and possibly a string of similar incidents — was a teenager.

I don’t know about you, but 17, for me, was a time of navigating the trials and tribulations and every-issue-becomes-a-mountain-out-of-a-molehill life that was high school.

You’re memorizing the Periodic Table of Elements to ace chemistry; you’re dealing with cliques; you’re cheering for your football team at the pep rally; you’re aching to win the lead role in the school play or first chair in band; and you’re enduring countless puppy-love heartbreaks, hall gossip and awkward embarrassments along the way.

You’re making lasting memories, but above all, these experiences —never-ending studying, detention, navigating social circles, the bonds formed from good sportsmanship and rallying for a common cause, and even the heartbreaks — help form who you will become as an adult.

It’s crucial to experience these things. Any missing piece of the puzzle could mean a missing link later in life.

Times like these raise questions — and it is my job to ask those questions.

How could a teenager —male or female — successfully deal with life, and the growth opportunities this time brings, while carrying such a secret, a double life that somehow balances a kid being a kid and a life of crime?

How does someone excel in school, build strong friendships and contribute meaningfully to society by day, and wreak havoc by night?

People can point fingers and hasten to judge, but ultimately, someone with such a double life, wearing masks to shield identity during the act of the crime, always watching behind his or her shoulder, cannot live a happy life and likely would see grades and relationships suffer.

Seventeen is too young to put a life of crime above the experiences we endure to become smarter, stronger and more caring. The trade-off isn’t worth it, but some part of the system has failed if anyone thinks it is.

It’s easy to point fingers and name-call, but at the end of the day, a teen who chooses crime over life should give us pause and cause to always set a good example for younger folks whose paths we cross.

Help is available. Today, guest columnist Bob Allen recalls teaching an etiquette lesson to a young student he was mentoring. (I won’t spoil you; the column, “Social graces, etiquette never hurt anyone” appears here.) He teaches the young man other occasions for manners, and the boy follows suit. For the rest of his life, this boy will know how to respect a woman. By his example, women who encounter him will accept no less from other men.

That’s an example of the system working.

Kids with positive influences taking such interest in their lives typically do not end up in serious trouble.

Sometimes, the solution is simple. Water a plant and watch it grow. Maintain honest communication and strengthen your marriage. Impress certain values on kids and they will live by them.

However, though teen crime indicates societal weakness, when a crime is committed, and due process has been observed, justice must be served.

Thomas Boni is the Editor of the Crestview News Bulletin. Email him at tboni@crestviewbulletin.com, tweet him @cnbeditor, or call 682-6524.
What's your view? Email news@crestviewbulletin.com with the subject "My view." Letters must be 250 words or less and written on local issues.