HARTFORD, Conn. — Both Democrats and Republicans are speaking out on how to solve the current question of deterring juvenile crime, particularly car break-ins and thefts.
At a press conference today, Leaders from the Connecticut Justice Alliance (CTJA), Tow Youth Justice Institute (TYJI), and the ACLU-CT along with other state leaders and activists called on lawmakers to provide data-driven solutions.
Advocates said that since 1991, there has been a sharp decrease in car break-ins, thefts, and vandalism among juveniles in the state. State Democrats said that while there was a slight uptick in crime in 2020, it was still within the average. Between 1991 and 2019, the state had seen a 77% decrease in car thefts, compared to a 43% decline nationally, said TYJI.
At the press conference, advocates said that long-term solutions need to come by way of investments in communities, youth, and families before locking up juveniles.
“It is overwhelmingly clear from the data that the 2020 increase in auto thefts correlates with the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Iliana Pujols, Policy Director at the Connecticut Justice Alliance. “The fact of the matter is the same juvenile justice reforms that people claim contribute to the increase in motor vehicle thefts in 2020 were in place in 2019 when Connecticut had the lowest motor vehicle theft rate on record.”
State Senate Republican Leader Kevin Kelly said in a statement:
"I agree that we absolutely need to broaden conversations to address the root causes of rising crime. A safer Connecticut starts with a stronger Connecticut. It starts with an economy that can support jobs, build hope, and create a path to success for young people. It starts with proactive policing, appropriate consequences for repeat offenders, and ensuring our justice system has the tools to successfully rehabilitate."
Kelly called out Democratic leaders in Connecticut cities like New Haven and Hartford for not doing more to help mitigate crime.
"There are victims that have been ignored for far too long that live in our cities, areas controlled by Democrats for decades. It’s wrong that only now that violence has moved beyond our cities are Democrats in charge confronted with their failures," said Kelly.
But Democrats say that putting more teens into the justice system without an actual plan of action to support their needs is "irresponsible".
"The issue of juvenile car thefts demands our attention. We should be paying attention to whether we are asking the right questions about the root causes so we can develop and implement the right answers. Anything less is political and dangerous," stated State Senator Gary Winfield (D-New Haven).
State Representative Toni Walker (D-District 93) believes the policies make a difference.
“As an educator and legislator I have seen firsthand how just policies, practices and funding can make a difference in the lives of all young people in Connecticut. We all must dispel falsehoods and all begin speaking the truth about what is available under the law for local authorities.”
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