Hennepin County Attorney, law enforcement share juvenile crime concerns with community
Some of Hennepin County’s top officials got together Saturday morning in a forum for the community of Rogers to discuss both the frustrations and the work being done when it comes to juvenile crimes.
“We need to talk about the level of crimes we’re seeing. We’re not talking about stealing candy bars and bubble gum. We’re talking about crimes that hurt people, including themselves,” Hennepin County Sheriff Duwanna Witt said.
Along with Witt, Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty, Fourth Judicial District Chief Judge Toddrick Barnette, Hennepin County Department of Community Corrections and Rehabilitation Director Catherine Johnson and Rogers Police Department Captain Jeff Beck sat on Saturday’s panel. Each emphasized they don’t want kids to re-offend and said part of that effort is accomplished by putting more focus on rehabilitation.
Moriarty says the county already has several successful county programs in place, like the Youth Initiative, that step in and help juvenile offenders, as well as their families, before things spiral out of control.
“Any time we can prevent a crime, prevent someone from getting hurt, that’s a win,” Moriarty said.
However, sometimes those programs aren’t what’s best for the juvenile offender or the community, Moriarty said. When that’s the case, though, there’s no place for those kids to go, which Moriarty says is a systematic failure.
“We know where they should go is getting intensive services in the community at different security levels, but we just don’t have that,” Moriarty said. “And so, there have been times as county attorney that I have authorized kids to be certified as an adult and actually sent to prison because we don’t have the appropriate resources for them.”
“I’ve said it before, I didn’t agree with the county homeschool closing or Totem Town. Those are the types of places that need to be brought back and we bring the resources to the kids, and they can receive them in a safe setting,” Witt said.
Witt emphasized another piece of the juvenile crime solution lies in better communication county-wide. She said, unfortunately, various Minnesota statutes limit discussions of juvenile suspects, however, getting all Hennepin County agencies on the same communications technology is a good start to ensuring prevention and intervention don’t fall through the cracks.