SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) -Springfield Police report a sudden spike in juvenile crime in the city. This lead to questions about the state’s handling of offenders under the age of 18.
Springfield police over the past month made a series of arrests of minors, a 17-year-old charged with the armed carjacking of a ride-share operator. Two 15-year-olds, two 16-year-olds, and a 17-year-old were picked up for stealing cars.
“With these Hyundai and Kia challenges, they’re breaking into cars and not even driving them very far and they’re just dumping it to do it. That’s the largest issue we’ve seen with juveniles,” said Springfield Police spokesperson Ryan Walsh
Walsh tells Western Mass News it’s hard to keep the kids committing these crimes off the streets because of Massachusetts child reform laws.
The law says children between 12 and 18 on their first offense can be punished by a fine, 6 months jail time, or both.
In the eyes of the Springfield Police Department, these laws are fine unless the offenders are younger than 12.
“One individual who was involved in a stolen Hyundai just last week and he was 11 years old,” said Walsh
We took those concerns to state representative Carlos Gonzalez.
He tells Western Mass News, outside of the traditional law enforcement route to stop these offenders, community policing is another solution to stopping kids from becoming juvenile offenders.
“I think that bike patrols and community policing is the solution. So, having conversations on that is critical and important and I support the mayor on those initiatives. Blame some of the judges and laws, we need to look at those. But, we also need to look at ways we can reimagine policing in Springfield,” said Gonzalez.
One after-school program is stepping up efforts to keep kids off the streets.
Executive director of the Boys and Girls Club family center Keshawn Dodds tells Western Mass News kids are being influenced by drugs and gang violence.
He hopes programs like his that focus on intervention can be a positive influence in the Springfield community.
“We do have organizations that we partner with and work with directly that when they are on that street level and we have those violent crime people out there. We try to get them off the street and get them resources and help to get away from that and curb that violence,” said Dodds.
Walsh says the state’s child reform laws have been on the books for 5 years.
He hopes if the legislature looks back on the set of laws for a 10-year review, changes can be made to help stop juveniles from committing dangerous crimes.
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