Lawmakers Team Up To Address Rise in Youth Car Thefts

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Lawmakers met Wednesday to discuss a growing problem in Connecticut - youth car thefts.

“Repeat juvenile offenders know that the current system doesn’t hold them accountable. It only emboldens them to commit more crimes because we know that nothing will happen,” Wolcott Police Chief Ed Stevens said.

In Connecticut, juvenile car thefts have increased 23% since 2019.

They are on the rise here and across the country after a 20-year-long decline according to juvenile crime experts.

But two police chiefs believe it was a problem before 2020. 

“Most of these problems started a decade ago when the juvenile age was raised from 16 to 18,” New Britain Police Chief Christopher Chute said. 

He added: “We need our lawmakers to go back to the drawing board, restore some type of juvenile justice system that works so that the public has faith again in our justice system."

Democratic lawmakers disagree about the cause. 

“I don’t think this is related to any legislative changes. I think that it’s a pandemic driven increase in crime, but is a real concern,” Rep. Steve Stafstrom, D-Bridgeport, says. 

Republican lawmakers say Democrats can’t ignore the problem. 

“I don’t want to get into whether or not there’s an escalation, not an escalation because we can all look at the figures. The point is that we’re all standing here together. Trying to work together,” Rep. Craig Fishbein, R-Wallingford, said. 

One of the things they are looking at is how long a youth can be detained. Right now it’s only 6 hours. 

“Giving more flexibility to a judge to allow the 6 hour time period to be extended longer while an investigation is ongoing or while paperwork is being gathered…” Stafstrom said. 

Fishbein said some law enforcement believe it’s a waste of time to apply for these detention orders. 

“I want to see the data. Can that be substantiated?” Fishbein said. 

Lawmakers plan to continue these conversations.

“There are two choices of elected officials: we can either just scream at each other for the next few months and wait to see how the deck shuffles out or we can try to have conversations.” House Speaker Matt Ritter said. 

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