There was a lot of interesting stuff at tonight’s EPCPC meeting, but the biggest news was on the burglary front. Earlier in the week we had a lot of discussion about the continuing burglaries in the area. The big question was where we could push for changes that would break the catch and release cycle that’s been happening with some of the juvenile suspects in the crimes.
That question was put to the east precinct’s Capt. McDonagh, who said that the number of burglaries in July was “horrible” and that they had launched an effort with the King County Prosecutor’s office to expedite the process. Their goal is to decrease the amount of time between the filing of probable cause paperwork and the actual charging of offenses against the kids that are involved.
Evidence of that new cooperation was found in the presence of Deputy Prosecutor Samantha Kanner at tonight’s meeting, where she described several issues with the current juvenile justice system. For example, current policy makes it rare that juveniles are kept in custody, even if they’re pending charges. And juveniles with only property crimes on their rap sheet are never incarcerated.
It’s easy to understand why that’s the case for minor crimes – you don’t want juvenile detention to become a place that takes in minor offenders and spits out hardened criminals. But it seems like the hundreds of burglaries we’ve seen over the last several months reaches a much more serious level. And it’s important to know that this specific issue is one of King County policy, not a more inflexible law that would be harder to change.
There are other issues too. State law puts bounds on the sentencing for juvenile offenders, with a maximum time served of 30 days for a first conviction of a property crime. And due to the privacy and lack of publicity around juvenile cases, judges might not alway be informed of an offenders real impact on the community.
So here’s some concrete things you can do to make a difference:
1. Attend juvenile court when these cases are heard. They’re open to the public and the various parties involved should know how residents feel about the situation. We’re working to get court dates and will let you know when they come up.
2. Contact King County leadership and let them know you’d like to see more priority placed on preventing juvenile burglary suspects from immediately getting out to reoffend. Start with Ron Sims and speak out to the Juvenile Detention Department too.
There were a lot of other interesting tidbits from tonight’s meeting. Stay tuned for those in a separate post tomorrow.