CARROLL COUNTY, Ga. - Residents say troubled teens are running away from a treatment facility called Kids Peace, and it’s making nearby homeowners feel unsafe.
Louis Shagawat, executive director of Kids Peace in Carroll County, admits it happens from time to time but says in his 14 years, there have only been two incidents where a teen that got out was charged with a crime.
The numbers aren’t stopping nearby residents though from feeling uneasy.
A group of homeowners in the small town of Bowdon have concerns about runaways coming from the facility. It’s a place that houses 60 teenagers struggling with mental health and behavioral issues.
Some teens here have a history with the Department of Juvenile Justice.
"That’s concerning especially if it’s a 17 or 18-year-old that escapes and we have 15-year-old daughters home alone during the summer," one parent told us.
Shagawat says in all 2017, there were 8 cases of children leaving the property. He doesn’t have the numbers for this year but sais in February four teenagers ran away.
"Our children are not dangerous. They would not be referred to us by the state if they were determined to be dangerous. We do not provide that level of care," he said.
But neighbors we talked to say they still feel unsafe.
Wanda Wessinger said her car was stolen the same day kids ran away from Kids Peace. Although police say there’s no evidence linking the crime to a child from this facility.
"It scared me to death. I was here and grateful I didn’t catch them stealing my car," she said.
Another woman said she spotted a young person hiding on her property but doesn’t know for sure where the person came from.
"It scares me. I feel vulnerable," she said.
Residents are pushing for the facility to install a fence. It's something Kids Peace said it won’t do because it would make the children feel like criminals.
"There are criminal events that occur in the community where some individuals automatically will blame Kids Peace kids. If they leave the building we follow we have strong protocols in place we notify the authorities right away," Shagawat said.
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