|I am pleased the Governor has announced a new initiative which seeks to address the uptick in gun violence and drug overdoses in recent weeks, and has done so in part in response to concerns from our communities. It is a step forward, but there is much more work to be done.
As you may know, our regular legislative session just concluded on June 9, and there was a good amount of discussion about the issue of increased crime, particularly an uptick in car thefts and the fact that many of these crimes seem to be committed by young adults and juveniles. Some of these crimes have been violent and occurred in our own backyards - the incidents on Woodfield Crossing late last year, and the one a few weeks ago in Glastonbury that culminated in a horrific accident on Route 17 were especially troubling. It is an issue that is important to me and one that many of us on both sides of the aisle have tried to push forward.
I worked within the Judiciary Committee to raise HB 6669 and was one of the original cosponsors of this legislation. I worked hard with my colleagues on the Judiciary Committee to get this bill narrowly passed out of the committee. Unfortunately, there was not particularly strong support for this entire bill among the key committee leaders, and while we fought to advance it further, I was disappointed that it did not make it to the full House for a vote. However, sections of the bill made into other bills and were passed into law - Senate Bill 1093 will create stricter penalties against adults who commit thefts and induce minors to do so and will work to improve the court process to adjudicate juvenile cases from the time of arrest. House Bill 6505 will improve the juvenile detention process.
While it is certainly alarming, it is also important to note that this trend is a national phenomenon that has emerged everywhere over the course of the pandemic. For what it is worth, some experts believe this trend does not appear to be directly related to any changes to our criminal laws - this article from the Hartford Courant provides a good summary of the Connecticut data.
Most of the relevant changes during my tenure in the legislature were ones to try and strengthen the consequences and programming for juveniles (see above and also PA 19-110 which actually made it easier for the court to detain a child as a risk to public safety by adding motor theft as a criteria in making that determination). While juveniles who commit crimes are subject to prosecution, the question of why juveniles are often released is a good one - under state law and under 19-110, judges have the ability to order detention, but often do not. We are trying to gather more information on this process to make it better and ensure detention is happening when appropriate.
Rep. Barry and I are in discussions about setting up a meeting in Glastonbury with key stakeholders, policymakers and officials from within the State's Attorney's office, and others within the juvenile justice system. I do not believe there is any one solution to this problem - while more can be done legislatively, I do also believe there may be policy changes that can take place without legislation, which is why it is important to continue a dialogue with the Judicial Branch and Division of Criminal Justice officials. As mentioned above, there are already some policies in place, but I think it is clear that they are not working as intended - particularly the lack of detainers being issued and the apparent limited use/success of diversionary programs.
Please be assured that this issue is important to me and I will continue to be working on it.