Crime victims in San Jose are wondering why no one is thinking of them when juvenile suspects, accused of stealing their valuables or committing other acts, are allowed back on the streets within days of being arrested.
Robert Moore has similar questions. He remembers returning to a ransacked house.
“I felt violated,” he said. “Not only did he take my personal belongings, but he went through all my stuff, and you really lose your sense of security when that happens.”
Moore was stunned when he heard the suspect was caught, but only made to spend a couple days in jail – because of his age.
“To me, that’s just ridiculous,” he said.
Police and probation officers told NBC Bay Area that they are just as frustrated, logging long hours to solve these crimes, hoping to get justice for the victims.
“There’s some serious holes in the system that these young offenders are exploiting, knowing they’re going to be able to get away with what they are doing,” said Sgt. Sean Pritchard, a board member of the San Jose Police Officers’ Association.
But juvenile court judge Katherine Lucero said that the goal with juveniles is rehabilitation rather than incarceration.
“All of the studies we’ve seen say incarcerating a young person while they’re in the height of adolescence development actually causes recidivism,” she explained.
Lucero she considers dozens of factors when sentencing young people, and often refers them to counseling and treatment programs – with the goal of helping them turn their lives around.
“It’s an awful feeling when I see them in court again,” she said, noting, however, that repeat offenders are punished more severely.
But Moore doesn’t buy it.
“This is an adult crime that needs to have serious punishment,” he said.