Regardless of what the law actually is, what do you think should be done to youths ages 14-17 who roam my neighborhood in groups, yelling obscenities at anyone they see?
What if you knew they had stolen weapons, vandalized more than 30 vehicles, stolen bikes, thrown rocks at houses, threatened to rape someone, threatened to kill animals, and more.
Some have been hauled off repeatedly for curfew violations, but it means nothing to the kids that their guardians have to come get them from downtown in the middle of the night. Some have been sent to behavior boot camp by their mother, but with weekend trips back home, the kids aren't missing a beat in the neighborhood.
We have an active neighborhood watch group. We report every incident to the police. But what we often get is some combination of, "Our hands are tied, they are minors, we didn't see it happen ourselves so we can't be sure which kid it was, it was just a verbal threat, the crime in this neighborhood isn't as bad as the crime in other neighborhoods."
When I was threatened last night by a group of at least six, two officers responded within fifteen minutes and were appropriately concerned. But what happens after the officers leave our houses is what frustrates the neighborhood. Even if they found the boys from my incident strolling down the next block, I seriously doubt they did anything but have a word with the boys. And that would be fine, if it had been the boys' first offense.
Now, if I acted to detain one of the boys until an officer arrived so there'd be no doubt about identity, that boy's mother would press charges against me for harming her son in some way. We've been told that photographing the kids from our property while they are peering into our street-parked cars or while yelling at us could also get us in trouble.
I should be able to get out of my car without being threatened. I should be able to leave my dogs in my fenced yard without worrying that the kids will kill them as promised. I shouldn't know the names of these kids and the names of the officers in my precinct.
These kids face no consequences for their behavior at home, don't care if they get expelled from school, and respect no adults. They come from broken, low-income, neglectful homes - and yes, that is sad. But they know right from wrong, or they wouldn't run when the police cruise up.
I'd like to think that we don't have to send them to jail for more than just a night. But maybe we do. I don't want to hear about how expensive that is, or how we can't possibly jail them all. Sure we can. And isn't it a better investment in public safety to attend to these issues at age 14 rather than at 22 when he's been in a gang for a few years, killed a family of four, and sold cocaine to the 14 year old he used to be?