The number of underage murder suspects has nearly doubled due to a “deficient” juvenile justice system that replaces criminal consequences with minor slaps on the wrist that fail to deter recidivism, New York Police Department officials told the New York Post.
Law enforcement officials pointed blame at the state’s “Raise the Age” statute signed by former Governor Andrew Cuomo (D), which took effect in October 2019 and replaced criminal charges with “juvenile reports.” The measure also upped the age for underage suspects from 16 to 18 years old to face adult charges.
According to the Raise the Age act, suspects given juvenile reports have their cases tried in family court or the youth part of the county courts. As a result, underage criminals receive lighter sentences, and, in most cases, their records are sealed.
The legislation has resulted in a decline in overall arrests from 5,009 in 2019 to 3,472 in 2022. The number of underage murder suspects increased to 161 between January and September, almost double the number during the same period in 2019, according to NYPD reports.
One law enforcement source told the Post, “When a kid is arrested with a gun and gets out in time for dinner, it sends a message to all of his friends who might be on the margins.”
“That message says, ‘Pick up that gun. There are no consequences,'” the source stated. “That way of thinking then spreads like an infection. And the problem of youth violence becomes exponentially greater.”
“The cruel irony is that the communities these politicians falsely purport to protect are the communities cleaning the blood of children off of their streets,” the source added.
Commissioner Keechant Sewell recently called the state’s juvenile criminal justice system “deficient in meaningful intervention for our youth.”
NYPD Assistant Commissioner Kevin O’Connor told the Post, “We’ve been able to take 16- and 17-year-olds in Raise the Age and not criminalize it by doing juvenile reports.”
“We’re not even giving them a little timeout, so to speak. And that’s where Raise the Age is really failing our kids. The recidivism is skyrocketing,” he added.
O’Connor explained that the Raise the Age legislation caused stress on the justice system and its resources. As a result, Horizons Youth Services, one of the state’s juvenile detention centers, was turned into a facility to house 16- and 17-year-old criminals, according to O’Connor.
“Over 50% of the kids in that facility right now are in for murder or attempted murder,” he said. “They only have the capacity citywide of a city of 1.1 million kids to hold 212 kids.”
“The problem with the juvenile world is they’ve created a system that we’re not allowed to share any information. We’re not about the kids. I can use data and statistics, but how do you fix it when there’s no accountability?” O’Connor stated.
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