Police, judges debate best approach to juvenile crime wave

March 3, 2021 GMT

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The most appropriate response to a sharp uptick in car thefts blamed on teenagers has led to finger-pointing between police and juvenile court judges in Ohio’s capital and largest city.

Reports of stolen vehicles have jumped by more than 40% since the beginning of the year, according to Columbus police records. Police in Columbus and central Ohio say that in many cases juveniles are the ones carjacking and stealing cars.

Last month, police leaders implied that the Franklin County juvenile court system hasn’t been doing its part to properly control juveniles suspected in such crimes, The Columbus Dispatch reported.


Teenage suspects tell police they don’t fear repercussions and assume they’ll be back on the street soon, said Columbus police Commander Duane Mabry.

Judges say years of evidence shows that detention should be the last resort for juveniles, with incarceration often hardening them as criminals.

“Rehabilitating the offender is my ultimate goal,” said Franklin County Juvenile Judge Elizabeth Gill.

Police said last month they’re targeting 40 young offenders and suspects — almost all teens with an average age of 16 — believed responsible for hundreds of car thefts, purse snatchings and other crimes throughout the Columbus area since early December.