TESTIMONY OF THE DIVISION OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE
H.B. No. 7332 (RAISED) AN ACT CONCERNING PUBLIC SAFETY AND THE WELFARE OF REPEAT JUVENILE OFFENDERS AND THEIR VICTIMS.
JOINT COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC SAFETY AND SECURITY
March 12, 2019
The Division of Criminal Justice supports the general concept of H.B. No. 7332, An Act Concerning Public Safety and the Welfare of Repeat Juvenile Offenders and Their Victims, and stands ready to work with the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Security to draft a JOINT FAVORABLE SUBSTITUTE REPORT addressing the very serious public safety concerns the bill addresses.
The title of this bill gets to the heart of the matter, which is the very real threat posed to public safety by repeat juvenile offenders, most notably those who steal motor vehicles. Not only do these juveniles pose a threat to public safety and to the innocent victims of their criminal activity, but they also pose a serious danger to themselves. The car stolen by a 14- or 15-year-old who leads the police on a chase or simply goes for a joyride quickly becomes a weapon, as the youngster does not have the driving training or experience to even attempt to operate the vehicle safely.
We are all aware of the increased incidence of vehicle thefts involving juvenile offenders, and frequently repeat juvenile offenders. It is no secret that in many cases a young person who steals a car is soon back on the streets having faced no immediate or meaningful sanctions for their crimes. While much good has come from the “raise the age” legislation enacted in recent years, it also has become obvious that some fine-tuning is in order to address the very serious threat posed by the very small number of serious repeat juvenile offenders. Again, we would stress that the issue is a small but very serious number of incidents involving a small group of young offenders.
As such, the Division supports the general concept of H.B. No. 7332, that being to revise the “raise the age” legislation to address the problem of repeat motor vehicle thieves. The Division, however, does not support the language of the bill that limits its provisions to motor vehicle thefts and no other serious and violent crimes. Motor vehicle thefts may be the issue of the day this year; next year it well could be armed robberies, sexual assaults or some other violent felony. The Division would rather see a comprehensive approach that addresses all categories of serious crime and provides for meaningful response by the police and the courts.
In conclusion, the Division stands ready to work with the Committee and others to draft a JOINT FAVORABLE SUBSTITUTE REPORT for H.B. No. 7332. We thank the Committee for affording this opportunity to provide input on this matter and would be happy to provide any additional information the Committee might require or to answer any questions that you might have.