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State Police Reforms hit home as juvenile criminal activity rises

Updated: May 16

May 15, 2024

By: Katherine Trowbridge

The Connell Police Department is actively investigating a number of criminal activities across our community that occurred over the past week. The department cited assault, attempted auto thefts, multiple shoplifts (including spray paints - which were used), graffiti, under aged drinking parties, constant truancy, habitual run-aways, malicious mischief, and destruction of property.  Several of these activities go beyond just this past week. 

A group of juveniles were arrested on Tuesday, May 14, in relation to these crimes. However, due to state reforms, especially regarding juveniles over the past year or two, the juveniles were not kept in custody and are likely back on our streets.  

Chief Chris Lee showcased a video of one of the assaults that occurred, as he addressed Connell City Council, to emphasize his request regarding updating city ordinances to assist in accountability. The video brought some staff to tears and had council and the mayor sickened by the senseless act. 

Chief Lee shared, “They have no regard for anybody and anything,” as he expressed that the other assault was of a four year old and then towards the officer who came to investigate. The video was an assault of a 13 year old.

Chief Lee will be bringing back ordinances for the council’s consideration at their June 5 meeting. One will address “Contributing to the delinquency of a minor” and another, “Failure to supervise a child.” Chief Lee added, “If we can’t do anything to hold the juveniles accountable we have to have something involved with parents to be able to curb this type of activity.”

He explained to council that while one parent has tried everything to curb their child’s behavior, the others are leaving it up to the justice system to handle their children’s behavior. Unfortunately, that system's hands are tied by these state laws. “They’ve been allowed to do whatever, and I’m at a loss. I’m at a loss for juveniles in this state and what we can do to hold them accountable,” he said, sharing that he is sympathetic to the errors of youth and second chances. 

Lee emphasized that the community needs to be vigilant in watching what is going on in your community – but also within our state legislature regarding these laws that aren’t holding criminal activity accountable.

“As citizens I ask you to be vigilant of when the state is passing laws that don’t allow for juveniles to be held accountable or the parents to be held to account. That we, as citizens, speak up and be heard so that we can try and change the laws,” Chief Lee said.  

He suggests calling your legislators or better yet, writing letters to legislators regarding these laws and especially when a new law is on the table at the state level. 

He asks citizens, “If you see something, say something” stating he’d rather have the information, rather have the officer respond and it be nothing than not have them respond and it be something. Even if you hear a rumor, it is better to investigate it, he said. He also reminds you that social media is not the place to report something. You must call it into either 9-1-1 or dispatch non-emergency at 509-628-0333.

Edtors note: While State Police Reform is not directly related to Juvenile Justice, it was the beginning of a variety of laws pushed out by the state legislature that offer leniency to criminals regarding accountability and justice. These laws affect prosecution, juvenile cases, and tie the hands of not only law enforcement but the justice system as a whole.

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