Community shares juvenile crime concerns with Hennepin County judges

Juvenile crime concerns

Juvenile crime concerns

Community members voiced frustrations during a listening session about juvenile crime at Mt. Olivet Church in Minneapolis on Tuesday evening. The public had the opportunity to share concerns with a panel of Hennepin County judges, including Chief Judge Toddrick Barnette.

Several city residents emotionally described being the targets of crime, including carjackings.

One woman told the panel two armed men entered her garage and held her at gunpoint to steal her car and valuables in 2021.

“I think the most disconcerting thing was this person had a lengthy juvenile record,” she said.

Community members questioned what the court is doing to prevent youth from re-offending and whether stricter consequences are needed.

“None of us up here want kids to re-offend,” said Judge Angela Willms. “It seems like we’re letting kids go […] but every time we see a child, we are trying to get to their needs as quickly as possible.”

Juvenile Court Presiding Judge Mark Kappelhoff explained the court has implemented new policies over the last few months as a result of a previous listening session.

He detailed four changes: any young person charged with fleeing a police officer in a motor vehicle will be mandatorily detained and has to appear before a judge within 36 hours, any youth charged in an auto theft must get a court date within three days to expedite the case, any carjacking case in which a young person is charged will be specifically assigned to a judge, and the court has launched a pre-trial services program to provide earlier intervention and support their family.

“We’ve listened to concerns, we’ve been collaborating with our justice partners to address those concerns,” said Chief Judge Barnette.

During the meeting, the panel was asked whether judges have discretion over whether to accept a plea agreement brought forward. Judge Barnette confirmed they can either accept or reject the deal but questioned the alternative if it’s rejected.

“We’re in a system with limited resources, that’s in a crisis,” he said.  “What you hear from the juvenile judges is wanting more options. They will make those decisions with the [placement] options they have now, they’re going to make the best decision that they can, but they’re asking for more options, more alternatives to have.”