Crime and Safety

NYPD tackles new ‘flawed’ juvenile justice system

Big Apple cops are battling a “flawed” juvenile criminal justice system that treats young offenders like huskies – even as the city faces a doubling in the number of juveniles accused of murder, New York police officials told The Post. York.

Authorities said the state’s Raise Age Act has led to a reduction in total arrests and an increase in “juvenile” slaps, the equivalent of a fine that carries no criminal consequences for suspected juvenile delinquents.

“We were able to take 16- and 17-year-olds into Raise the Age and not criminalize it by filing juvenile reports,” outgoing NYPD Assistant Commissioner Kevin O’Connor, who is in charge of the department’s youth division, said in an interview. Exclusive interview on Wednesday.

“We don’t even give them a little timeout, so to speak. And this is where Raise the Age really fails our kids. Relapses are on the rise.”

O’Connor spoke just hours after Commissioner Keechant Sewell warned of “a system that lacks meaningful intervention for our youth” during the NYPD’s annual Midtown speech.

NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell discusses crime in New York.
NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell says a “flawed” juvenile justice system is haunting the city.
Robert Miller

NYPD statistics show that between January and September last year, the number of juvenile murder suspects jumped to 161, nearly double the number from the same period in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Age Raising Act, signed into law by former Governor Andrew Cuomo on April 10, 2017, went into effect in October 2019, raising the age for criminal prosecution to 18 years old from the previous threshold of 16 and 17 years. .

Since then, police statistics show a sharp drop in arrests of suspects under the age of 18 in seven major crimes and firearms cases, from 5,009 in 2019 to 3,472 last year.

Instead, young New Yorkers who have been arrested now face friendlier treatment as juveniles and are tried in family court or youth court in the state Supreme Court, where records are sealed and sentences are significantly lighter.

O’Connor, who is retiring Friday, said the juvenile reports “go nowhere” because juvenile crimes are sealed by law and juvenile recidivism is kept under wraps.

“This is crazy and no one understands this,” he said. “The problem with the juvenile world is that they have created a system where we are not allowed to share any information. We are not talking about children. I can use data and statistics, but how to fix it when there is no accountability.”

NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell discusses crime in New York.
NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell says a “flawed” juvenile justice system is haunting New York.
Robert Miller

For example, three teenagers recently arrested for allegedly beating Fox News meteorologist Adam Klotz on a Manhattan subway train last week were put on juvenile records and turned over to their parents without charge.

One of the teens, who is 17 years old, could have been charged with assault as an adult prior to state law changes in 2019.

“For anyone who is prosecuted as a minor, the punishment will be much less,” prominent Manhattan defense attorney Mark Bederow said Wednesday. “This is the reality of how the system is built.

“Anyone who is prosecuted as a minor will not face the same punishments and the same consequences, and if they are not properly provided with services and life skills, there will always be a better chance that they can do something again.” Bederow added. . – I think it’s clear.

O’Connor said the change also had an impact on the juvenile justice system and the resources available.

“The only place they could put them in was one of the two juvenile institutions, Horizons. [Youth Services] or crossroads [Juvenile Center],” he said. “So they turned Horizons into a pre-trial detention center for 16- and 17-year-olds.

“More than 50% of the children in this institution are now for murder or attempted murder,” he said. “They only have the city’s total capacity of 1.1 million children to accommodate 212 children.”

Meanwhile, statistics show a new worrying trend in youth crime in recent years.

The Post reported last month that 12.7% of identified shooters in five boroughs in the first nine months of last year were under the age of 18, up from 9.2% in 2017.

There were also more children in the line of fire, with one in ten shooting victims in 2022 being under the age of 18.

Among them was 11-year-old Kihara Tai, who was mortally wounded by a stray bullet outside a nail salon while riding a 13-year-old on a moped in the Bronx in May 2022.

One of the two teenagers charged with her murder, 18-year-old Omar Bojang, was arrested twice in 2020 for gun incidents that are sealed under the Raise the Age Act, sources say.

Other cases also show how the “Raise the Age” program failed among New Yorkers:

  • A 16-year-old who hit a city police officer in a Manhattan subway station in July was released without bail as the law classified him as a juvenile delinquent, though he had also been released a few days earlier after allegedly jumping on a 49-year-old man. strap in Midtown.
  • Jakel James, a 17-year-old high-profile Brooklyn mobster, was released despite attempted murder and two open gun cases because he could not be charged as an adult. Prosecutors finally put him in jail in May, but only after another arrest with a firearm.
  • Up-and-coming 17-year-old rapper Camryn Williams was sent to a Brooklyn juvenile center, not Rikers Island, after he allegedly shot and killed a city police officer in January 2022. He was later released on bail. Williams already had a 2020 gun rap to his credit, for which he got off with a suspended sentence due to his underage status.

Police said other cases outside the controversial law show a recent surge in disturbing youth violence in the Big Apple.

One 13-year-old high-profile gangster was “executed” in the back seat of an Uber after being released without bail in the midst of a gang war in the Bronx – and despite three previous arrests by gunshot.

Why wasn’t he in jail? O’Connor asked. “Why wasn’t he in some kind of restricted facility with limited security to receive services and assistance.”

One law enforcement source explained that “when a child is arrested with a gun and comes out in time for dinner, it sends a message to all his friends who may be in the fields.”

“This message says, ‘Pick up that gun. There are no consequences,” the source said. “This kind of thinking then spreads like an infection. And the problem of youth violence is getting exponentially bigger.

“The cruel irony is that the communities that these politicians ostensibly protect are actually communities that clean their streets of children’s blood.”

Additional Report by Joe Marino and Priscilla DeGregory

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