Debate continues over how to handle juvenile crime across the state

Crime

Conn. (WTNH) — The debate continues over what to do about youth car thefts in Connecticut.

UConn hosted a virtual panel Tuesday to take a deep dive into the topic.

“The decade prior to and post-juvenile justice reform, we’re actually still seeing fewer auto thefts today,” said Ken Baron of the UConn Institute for Municipal and Regional Policy.

Safe Streets advocates said that is not what it feels like on the ground. They want politicians to join the statewide discussion and are still pushing for a special session on juvenile justice.

“We’re afraid for our children, for our families,” said Laura Hancock of Safe Streets Connecticut.

Hancock is frustrated. The Glastonbury native said the failure on the part of lawmakers to fix a broken system is creating a dangerous cycle of criminals who steal cars and commit acts of violence unchecked.

“Those young adults are simply graduates of the failed juvenile justice system. They didn’t get the intervention that they need in order to become good citizens, and that’s what we’re looking for,” Hancock said.

What that intervention looks like is vastly different in the eyes of advocates, prosecutors, police, lawmakers and policy experts.

“We need programs that can adapt and bend and we don’t have that, and in adult court we do. It’s not about incarceration, transferring juveniles to adult court. It’s about having a wider scope of options,” said Hartford State’s Attorney Sharmese Walcott.

“The goal is not to try to stay involved in this system longer. The goal is trying to intervene as quickly as possible with the right pairing of services ideally in a diversionary way,” said Sue Hamilton of the CT Division of Public Defender Services.

Senate Republicans are set to hold an update on juvenile justice reform Wednesday.

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