Community cries for help in wake of more violent crimes involving juveniles

Hartford

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — The issue of juveniles committing crimes remains a hot-button issue. At a bill signing ceremony in Hartford, community leaders called for more than just ‘political posturing.’

Leaders continue to talk about solutions, but as daily violence continues, it’s clear the issue goes a lot deeper than changing any law.

“When it’s easier for a child in this community to get a gun as opposed to a fresh head of lettuce, come on, now you know what’s gonna happen,” said State Senator Doug McCrory.

Sen. McCrory says the recent crime wave is the result of deep-rooted issues.

“If we don’t deal with poverty and redlining, you can read every book in the world, this is not going to stop,” McCrory said.

His call to action — intervene when kids are young.

“If we have to start changing policy when these kids are 14 or 15 or 16 or 17, we have lost the game,” added McCrory.

“We’re probably looking at a very small minority of kids in the state, 100 to 200 of these kids that can become crime waves in these local jurisdictions,” said Commissioner of the CT State Police James Rovella.

He’s not in favor of expanding the six-hour hold used by law enforcement to detain a teen. Instead, he prefers “court orders,” putting repeat offenders in detention with access to trauma programs.

“These are the kids that are soon going to be vaulted into adulthood. These are the kids that are going to be shot at out there. These are the kids that are going to turn into our homicide victims,” concluded Rovella.

Gov. Lamont says secure group homes and communication in the system are also key, adding chronic offenders need a different kind of response.

“Make sure the judges have the information. Make sure that incarceration is not the answer – but help these kids get a better chance,” said Gov. Lamont.

Community leaders were told money is on the way.

Andrew Woods, the Executive Director of Hartford Communities That Care, says the ideas and solutions are working.

“Folks who do street-level intervention around the clock as well – they are making a significant impact on a lot of these young people’s lives,” Woods said.

Does the current judicial system work?

State Representative Steve Stafstrom, a Democrat from Bridgeport and Chair of the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee, says a recent case in a suburb of the capital city involving a teen who allegedly stole a car with a two-year-old in it is a good example of the system working.

“We saw that recently in West Hartford where the police department did an investigation, found a juvenile had committed a very serious crime and that juvenile was detained,” said Stafstrom.

But the House Republican Minority Leader says while lock-up isn’t always the answer, handing down punishment isn’t possible when certain crimes involve teens.

“It’s not just about incarceration, but it certainly is about accountability. It’s odd that somebody could commit forcible rape, or negligent homicide and can’t be tried as an adult for those crimes. Those are the conversations the public wants us to address,” said State Representative Vin Candelora.

News 8 was told judiciary chairs will meet with the chief state’s attorney next week. The meeting is not open to the public.

State Senator Kevin Kelly, the Republican Minority leader, is critical of Democrats who are leading the process.

“The solution to stopping crime is not going to come from a group of political elites sitting under the golden dome. We need to look outside the capitol and into our communities. We have community leaders who no one is listening to,” Sen. Kelly said.

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