Hundreds of cars are stolen each year around Connecticut and in some places, the numbers are staggering. Take Waterbury, for instance.
“Over 970 cars stolen — a majority of those cars stolen by juveniles,” said Waterbury Police Chief Fernando Spagnolo.
Chief Spagnolo says car thefts by juveniles is a serious issue in his city. He says last year, 52 juveniles were arrested for stealing cars; six of those juveniles stole cars ten or more times.
It’s not just a Waterbury problem.
“Between December and the end of February we had 13 stolen cars,” said Lt. Patrick Lynch of the Ansonia PD. “As soon as we were able to arrest him our stolen cars have stopped. We haven’t had one since.”
The lieutenant is referring to a 15 year-old recently arrested for car theft in Ansonia. Both Chief Spagnolo and Lt. Lynch believe kids are brazenly stealing cars because there’s an attitude on the streets that they can get away with it — even after they’re arrested.
“They realize how there really is no teeth behind the juvenile system in terms of detaining them and putting them in a secure facility they don’t exist anymore. So, for them, it’s an arrest, a summons to appear in juvenile court, and probably probation,” he said. “What we’re doing now isn’t working.”
Waterbury state Representative Stephanie Cummings is trying to persuade state lawmakers to get tougher on repeat juvenile car theives. Her proposal just made it out of the initial committee stage.
“After committing a certain number of felonies — prior convictions — on their next felony arrest, they would be automatically transferred to the adult court for adjudication,” Rep. Cummings said.
Chief Spagnolo recently went to the state capitol to try and persuade state lawmakers to support it.
“The ability to transfer repeat juvenile offenders to the adult court system is important because there is a very small percentage of the juvenile population that’s involved in the crime that we are failing with the juvenile justice system,” Chief Spagnolo said.
“What we’re doing now isn’t working,” said Lt. Lynch. “They realize how there really is no teeth behind the juvenile system in terms of detaining them and putting them in a secure facility — they don’t exist anymore. So, for them, it’s an arrest, a summons to appear in juvenile court, and probably probation.”
“We need to show them that their actions would have serious consequences,” he said.