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As auto thefts continue to rise, some push for stiffer juvenile justice measures

And on Friday, New Haven police diffused what could have been a deadly encounter when they came upon a stolen car that was occupied.

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — As of Nov. 8, the number of stolen cars in New Haven had surpassed the total for all of 2019.

And Friday, New Haven police diffused what could have been a deadly encounter when they came upon a stolen car that was occupied.

New Haven police were alerted that several stolen cars were parked on Greenwood Street. So, an officer checked it out.

"As he’s getting out just to investigate, he realizes one of the cars is occupied with three individuals, who are sleeping," said Assistant Police Chief Renee Dominguez.

The 15-year-old driver and 14-year-old front-seat passenger were both taken into custody, but not the 13-year-old in the backseat.

"He removes a handgun from his waistband," said Dominguez.

The teen never pointed it at the officers on the scene. Shortly thereafter, the boy put the gun down and was arrested. 

Police say the 13-year-old had two outstanding arrest warrants, one from New Haven and one from West Haven, both for stolen automobiles.  

The 15-year-old driver had three outstanding warrants. Two were for drug sales and one was for burglary. Police discovered he was also in possession of a gun during a secondary pat-down.

"They have been doing this," Dominguez said. "This is not the first time they’re doing it. This wasn’t just a poor choice today."

Police departments across the state have complained about juvenile justice laws having no teeth to act as a deterrent.

"What we’ve been doing for the last decade-plus is trying to figure out how to have a system where there is punishment, but there is also the ability not to find yourself in the deep end of the system very early," said State Sen. Gary Winfield (D-New Haven).

"Back when the juvenile justice age was raised, we created a revolving door for these teenagers to just continue to commit crimes with no consequence," said State Rep. Vincent Candelora (R-North Branford).

Police chiefs has said minors are released to their parents after committing most crimes and never face any consequences.

"What I think we need to do is take a step back, do some analysis and figure out why we're seeing the things we are seeing before we start going to the public and telling the public the reason for the genesis of it," said Winfield, who is Co-Chair of the state legislature's Judiciary Committee.

"There seems to be this automatic pushback from our city legislators to say 'mind your business, I know better,'" Candelora said. 

In addition to the juvenile arrests, officers recovered three additional stolen vehicles in the immediate area; a Buick stolen from Hamden, a Nissan stolen from West Haven, and a Mitsubishi stolen from New Haven.