Middletownpress.com, Julia Bergman, July 8, 2021
HARTFORD — A bipartisan group of lawmakers emerged from an afternoon meeting on juvenile crime at the state Capitol Wednesday with a conciliatory tone, and announced there’s agreement on how to address repeat offenders who commit serious offenses, including providing judges with more information about prior arrests.
The closed-door meeting came about a week after the hit-and-run death of a 53-year-old man in New Britain by an alleged 17-year-old driver of a stolen car, who police said had been arrested 13 times in less than four years, including on charges of assault with a knife and robbery.
Both Democrats and Republicans at Wednesday’s meeting characterized the discussion as a starting point for what they hope will be a collaborative solution to the issue.
“This meeting was not intended to redraft all the criminal justice reforms that we’ve had over the years,” House Speaker Matt Ritter, D-Hartford said after the closed-door meeting in his office.
One area of agreement is quickly giving judges more access to the criminal history of a juvenile offender.
Take the example of a juvenile arrested late one evening. Under current law, police can hold the juvenile for up to six hours and must request a detention order from a judge to hold that person longer.
If the arrest occurs late at night police call the judge on duty, who might not have full access to the juvenile’s criminal record from home.
“If the ask is to eliminate the limit altogether and police can hold the juvenile for as long as they want, no, I don’t think that’s something our caucus would support,” state Rep. Steve Stafstrom, D-Bridgeport, co-chairman of the legislative Judiciary Committee, said after Wednesday’s meeting.
“But giving more flexibility to a judge to allow a six-hour time period to be extended longer while an investigation is ongoing or while paperwork is being gathered or while the judge is engaged in looking up somebody’s past criminal record, that might be an area of middle ground,” Stafstrom said.
A law passed during the 2021 legislative session requires the Judicial Branch to track how often police request detention orders and whether they are being granted or denied — a proposal from Republicans that made its way into a court-operations bill.
“My understanding is that some police officers believe that it’s a waste of time. I want to see the data. Can that be substantiated?” said Rep. Craig Fishbein, R-Wallingford, the top Republican on the judiciary committee.
Earlier Wednesday, Republicans, joined by the police chiefs of New Britain and Wolcott, repeated their call for a special legislative session to address a spike in car thefts and other crimes by juveniles.
“Hopefully we’ll see some meaningful reforms that everyone will be better off with,” Republican House Leader Vincent Candelora, of Branford, said after Wednesday’s meeting.
Republicans want juvenile offenders to be detained longer, repeat serious offenders to face harsher punishments, and to change police department policies regarding pursuing stolen vehicles.
New Britain Police Chief Christopher Chute said a “very small, narrow population of repeat offenders” is “generating the majority of these crimes.” Full Article