“What about accountability?” Police Chief Mike Koval asks
This blog continues to hear rumblings that much of the juvenile crime wave in Dane County can be laid at the lenient feet of Juvenile Court Judge Everett Mitchell.
Mitchell is on record that car theft should be left up to insurance companies to deal with, not the courts, and “I just don’t think that they should be prosecuting cases … for people who steal from Wal-Mart.” (Sourced here.)
In his blog today, Madison police chief Mike Koval critiques our juvenile justice system but only obliquely references Judge Mitchell:
Over the past several months, [ I ] have increasingly chronicled juveniles engaged in serious, illegal behavior(s). Weapons offenses, stealing cars and operating them recklessly, brazen burglaries, robberies, and sexual assaults are among the litany of crimes that have generated fear and apprehension in our community.
MPD has certainly heard from constituents about their collective angst and I can assure you that our cops share in those sentiments. As I have noted before, MPD has spent considerable time and resources in our attempts to prevent, investigate, and arrest juveniles engaged in criminal behavior.
GPS ankle bracelets not working, schools in chaos
Regrettably, the juvenile “justice” system is not responding to the issues at hand and we see a plethora of reasons why it is failing. The judges will tell you that they do not have enough dispositional options available for consideration; there is a paucity of programs, mental health resources cannot keep up to the demands, and there is a lack of suitable placement alternatives
- The state-operated Lincoln Hills has been shut down.
- The juvenile reception center and the Dane County shelter are at capacity.
- “Home detention” and GPS monitoring have not met standards of reliability ….
- School-related disturbances and inappropriate behaviors have become all too commonplace.
- Gang membership is on a trajectory climb as well.
At a recent meeting of practitioners, I listened to many earnest discussions with well-intentioned subject matter experts expounding upon the need for more relationship building with at-risk youth, timely interventions, fortifying existing programs while instituting even more topical and comprehensive initiatives that can get to the root causes of why a juvenile makes bad/reckless choices.
… I unequivocally support these good faith attempts as a means of preventing and interceding before small matters becomes big issues with criminal justice ramifications.
Jumped, thumped and robbed
But the one thing I haven’t heard enough discussion about are the needs of the victims of crimes caused by juveniles? What about accountability?
When a 59-year-old mom is leaving work at 10 pm at night and is jumped, thumped, and her car/keys/purse are taken from a trio of juveniles — only to have her family’s car subsequently totaled later in the morning — who is speaking up on her behalf?
Quite frankly, at this point in time, I am NOT preoccupied in looking at what “caused” these youths to transgress the law, I am more inclined to ask what the consequences will be for the behavior (assuming due process and an adjudication of delinquency)?
While I endorse community-based restorative justice initiatives, I draw the line at serious, felony behaviors.
Lost in translation here in Dane County
Furthermore, victims need to stay empowered in making decisions on how to proceed with the management and prosecution of cases that do not (and should not) qualify for diversion from the criminal justice system.
… While I still believe that the first steps in dealing with wayward youth is to “treat” rather than “punish,” to keep families together by providing needed services, to remove children from the home only when absolutely necessary and to incarcerate kids only as a last resort, the legislative intent of Chapter 938 [… to treat young offenders with a greater degree of accountability, with an emphasis on the protection of society from juvenile crime] seems to have been lost somewhere in the translation here in Dane County.
Chief Koval’s bottom line:
It is time to address juvenile behaviors that not only embrace what’s in the best interests of the child, but acknowledges and acts upon ensuring the safety of our community as well.