Madison Police Chief Mike Koval says despite his officers’ best efforts, juvenile crime remains a serious problem in the city. “We have this perfect storm. We have increasingly bold crimes being committed, by historically young offenders,” Koval said.
Koval said officers repeatedly arrest chronic youth offenders. “Some of the times we’re picking them up, they still have GPS bracelets, or we find out they’re on home detention or home monitoring. And it’s a little difficult, when you’ve just picked kids up out of a stolen car that they may have rolled or crashed, and to have them literally laughing and saying ‘nothing’s going to happen to me.'”
He said the perception is that those young people are being turned back into the community. Juvenile court judges are pushing back against the claim that there is a “revolving door.” Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne issued a statement responding to Koval Tuesday afternoon, disagreeing with Koval’s assessment of the justice system.
“The juvenile’s best interests and the safety of our community are linked and it is past time we acknowledged this,” Ozanne said. “I implore the people of this county to resist the urge to turn towards more severe and harsher punishments and instead ask them to join me in demanding and creating change.”
Madison mayor Paul Soglin said juvenile court judges options have just two options in dealing with young offenders. He said judges are not going to send them to Lincoln Hills, “because of the operation of that facility.” The second option, Soglin said, is to release the juveniles.
Koval released his daily blog post on Tuesday morning. in which he noted the increasing frequency of “juveniles engaged in serious, illegal behavior[s].” He referenced a recent incident last week, in which three teens are accused of beating a woman and stealing her car.
Police spokesman Joel DeSpain says one of the suspects, a 13-year-old boy, appeared unfazed. “We were trying to convince him to change his ways and stop this crime spree, and the teen told the officer ‘This is only the beginning, we’re just getting started.'”
DeSpain said the young teen is a known member of a gang that continues to steal unlocked cars in the city. He was already on electronic monitoring for a previous case of theft, but had cut off his ankle bracelet. DeSpain also noted that many of the vehicle thefts are crimes of opportunity. “Almost all of the cars that have been stolen in the last month had been unlocked and had the keys inside.”
WRN’s Raymond Neupert contributed to this report