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Connecticut News

The Conn. GOP calls for a juvenile crime crackdown. The rate is among the lowest in the country

Police car
Scott Davidson
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Connecticut Republicans are urging the state to take a tougher approach to address stories of car thefts and robberies by young people when the state’s legislative session starts on Wednesday — even though the state has one of the lowest juvenile crime rates in the nation.

“We were left as roadkill on the side of the road,” said John Rasimas, a Madison resident, recalling the time he and his wife Kathy were thrown off of their motorcycle by a kid they allege was illegally driving a pick-up truck. He referred to her as his “wounded warrior” from the incident where she lost her leg.

Sandy Kraus, a Branford resident, also joined Republicans this week for the announcement of their public safety agenda. While she didn’t face any physical injuries, she said she was frustrated to have her car stolen out of her driveway — twice. She said her house was also broken into.

“What’s always said to me is ‘it’s just property, your insurance will make you whole again.’ Well, I want to explain to you all that that is not the case in the state of Connecticut,” Kraus said.

Republicans have been advocating for harsher sentences, fingerprinting, quicker arraignments and GPS monitoring those sentenced to house arrest.

“We talked about the potential loss of life if this continues. We are hearing stories of people’s lives being changed forever. We need to change that trajectory in the state of Connecticut,” House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora said.

But Democrats urge taking a more rehabilitative approach to keep struggling kids — many from low-income and communities of color — out of the criminal justice system.

Community groups that join Republicans, including Safe Streets Connecticut, refer to the crime problem as an “epidemic” during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Connecticut has historically had among the lowest juvenile crime rates in the country, according to the Department of Justice. Incarceration also fuels recidivism rates of juvenile offenders, according to a state evaluation of its Juvenile Probation and Residential Services program.

The Equal Justice Initiative, which monitors criminal injustice, has found narratives about juvenile crime on the rise, in part, responsible for tighter policing laws in almost every state, and a catalyst to the mass incarceration of youth, especially people of color — despite the statistical decrease in crime. This focus on specific incidents to push for tighter legislation on juvenile crime is reminiscent of the superpredator myth from the 1990s.

“I am in favor of protecting the futures of juveniles, however, it's the feel-good legislation that was created that is causing the problem… [it] was created by enablers of crime,” said John Porriello of Safe Streets Connecticut. The group created a legislative scorecard that ranks state lawmakers as safety “champions” or “enablers” based on their stance on juvenile crime proposals.

Governor Ned Lamont has said that he will work with Republicans and Democrats to address crime in the state.