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Amid Car Theft Uptick, CT Advocates Want Youth Voices Heard in Solutions

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Thursday, December 16, 2021   

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Officials are considering ways to handle an increase in car thefts and other crimes in Connecticut.

Juvenile-justice advocates say they want to ensure reform is not reversed and strategies addressing the rise in crime also support community needs. Data released last month by the state show the number of young people admitted to juvenile-detention centers dropped 87% between 2005 and 2020.

Erika Nowakowski, associate director for the Tow Youth Justice Institute at the University of New Haven, which provided data for the report, said policymaker solutions should focus on tackling basic needs, such as housing, employment and mental health services.

"We should be focusing on prevention and making sure that those resources and those community services are available and accessible to them," Nowakowski contended. "So that we don't get to a point where they feel they need to steal a car because they need to make money to help support the family."

Motor-vehicle theft in the state increased nearly 41% between 2019 and 2020, but was on the decline in years prior, after peaking in the 1990s. The Tow Institute supports the state's Juvenile Justice Policy Oversight Committee in its planning for 2022 legislative recommendations.

The Connecticut Senate Republican Caucus unveiled its "Safer Connecticut" proposal in October, which includes GPS monitoring for young people arrested for a violent crime or a repeat offense, along with funding programs to address trauma, truancy, and provide mentorship.

Jordyn Wilson, community connections associate for the Connecticut Justice Alliance, said juvenile justice policy change should include feedback from the young people it will impact.

"Oftentimes you see that there's adults that are making decisions that inherently affect our young people," Wilson observed. "We'll just make sure to continually let people know, 'Look, you need to be having these conversations with young people, because essentially, the decisions that you guys are making affect them, they're the future generation.'"

Lawmakers in support of the proposal have requested a special session to address juvenile crime.


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