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Lawmakers, city officials discuss handling of juvenile crime in Baltimore

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Posted at 7:32 PM, Nov 06, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-07 07:45:21-05

BALTIMORE — It only took about two hours before a 12 and 14 year-old were released from Baltimore Police custody, after getting arrested for attacking a woman while she was walking home, and stealing her car keys. It happened last week in the Patterson Park neighborhood.

"This was a particularly rough and really brutal crime that took place. The woman was thrown on the ground. She was punched, she was kicked," said Councilman Zeke Cohen, who represents the district where the crime happened.

Coucilman Cohen is one of five legislators who wrote a letter over the weekend to Baltimore Police and the Department of Juvenile Services to ask why the pair was released.

They say this was not an isolated incident, but rather part of a larger pattern: too often, kids are committing crimes and getting away with it.

"It's not about pointing fingers. It's not about just BPD or DJS. It's about what is happening that is enabling this crime wave to continue without clear consequences for these young folks?" Cohen asked.

Just last week, Mayor Brandon Scott expressed similar frustration after a 16 year-old was shot and killed; that same teen was arrested back in August for trying to carjack an off-duty police officer, but was released on home monitoring.

“I want everyone to know that this is not some kind of intergovernmental fighting right now. Everyone is working hard together each and every day to address these issues, especially as we lead up into the legislative session and any changes that need to be made there, and having conversations with everyone from the Senate President on up to the Governor about how to build a system of juvenile justice. One that works, and there are no examples to my knowledge of ones that work in this country. Maryland would have to be the first,” Mayor Scott said.

Some on social media told the legislators their letter comes too little, too late, saying this is a consequence of juvenile justice reforms passed at the state level, that are designed to protect juvenile offenders.

"To me, when I look at this crime in particular, I don't think the laws at the state level necessarily have anything to do with it. Even within the existing laws, it should not be a case where young people are committing acts of pretty serious violence and then just leaving a couple hours later," Cohen said.

In response to the letter, Baltimore Police told WMAR-2 News that BPD was not responsible for the release of the two juveniles.

"And I'm not pointing fingers at anybody. It's just something that happened - they got released, we talked about it, we'll work through it, we'll deal with what happened. And we'll work together to make sure it doesn't happen again," Commissioner Richard Worley said at a press conference today about auto thefts.

“Our officers did what they were supposed to do, and we would work from there to fix it if there was a mistake made, if they thought if it was something they should’nt have done, we work through it. But I stand behind what our officers did, because they did what they were told to do," Worley said.

The Department of Juvenile Services tells us, "DJS takes any allegations of breach of policy or protocol seriously. We are reviewing the matter and will take appropriate actions based on the results of the review."

Councilman Cohen also said parents need to be a part of this conversation.

"I think we as a city, as a society, we really need to do the hard work of following up, and figuring out what's happening in a child's home that is leading them to go out and do this, because it is not normal for a 12 year-old or 14 year-old to go hurt someone. As a dad, who is raising my two kids in this city, I think about what I would feel if my children were so out of control that they were going out and robbing folks in the middle of a street," Cohen said.