Frustration rising over repeat teenage offenders

MADISON (WKOW) — It’s like deja vu. Over the weekend, two teenagers were arrested for stealing and crashing a car for the second time in a month.

“We’ve got a group on teenagers. We know who they are. They continue to go out and steal cars,” said Madison Police spokesperson Joel DeSpain. “So we’ve got at least two kids who were in that car who were not only in the vehicle when it smashed into the tree on Coolidge Street, they were also in a car that hit a home that was under construction on Dunns Marsh Terrace.”

According to Juvenile Detention Center (JRC) Administrator John Bauman, after the first incident in November, where a group of teens stole an SUV and crashed into a house under construction for a woman with disabilities. Two boys and one girl were involved in the crash. The driver was brought to JRC by police and held until the court released him 10 days later under home detention. There have been no incidents since.

The 15-year-old girl was not referred to the JRC until nearly four weeks later after missing a court date. She was held overnight, then released to a shelter home by the court where she went missing a few days later.

The third teenager was not referred to JRC by police after the first and second incidents.

“We’d like to see to get to these kids and their mindset. And to have them change their behavior. We know that there are not a lot of places where the juvenile judges can place them,” DeSpain said.

Early Sunday morning, the same two teens crashed a stolen Jeep into a tree on Coolidge Street in Madison.

DeSpain admits there is a level of frustration within the department regarding all the stolen vehicles.

“They’d already been out several times before in stolen cars. It wasn’t their first go round when they crashed into the house. And they’re obviously still out there, now crashing into a tree,” he said.

It’s a revolving door that police aren’t sure just how to close. But they want to start the conversation.

“What can we do as a police department? What can juvenile justice groups do? What can the community do to really influence different behavior in this core group of young people?” DeSpain said.

Both teens are still in the hospital after suffering serious, but non-life threatening injuries in this weekend’s incident.

DeSpain fears that if this keeps up, the teens will not only kill themselves, but someone else.

David Johnson

David Johnson

Reporter, WKOW

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