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Juvenile rights versus their victims and community rights

While people were attending Holy Family Church on Sunday, February 24th, three teenagers were reported to be breaking into cars in the church parking lot.

When police arrived, the three sped away in a vehicle, resulting in a fatal crash at the intersection of Alpine and Brendenwood, just a few hundred yards away from the church’s parking lot.

We all know the name of the victim, 58 year old Karen Shafer of Rockford, who was pronounced dead from her injuries less than an hour later at the hospital where she had worked for 30 years in obstetrics as a nurse.

But what do we know about the teenage perpetrators? Only that the driver is 16 and the other two are a 16 year old and a 17 year old, Corey J. Butler. The 17 and 16 year olds have been charged with parole violations, while the 16 year old driver has been charged with negligent homicide, aggravated DUI with drugs, and multiple other charges.

Nothing more is known about the 16 year olds, not even their names, since their privacy is protected under the law. They were old enough to kill someone trying to escape from police, but they are underage and the law protects their rights.

If the community had been informed of these juveniles’ previous rap sheets, their names, where they lived, what kind of crimes they were committing, their physical descriptions, their modus operandi, the community might have been alerted to their possible crimes and some action might have been taken to prevent this tragic death.

Prevention of crime requires data to be measured and explained to this community with a high crime rate why it is happening. Had the juveniles served time for their previous crimes? Why were they on probation and not in jail?

What redeeming value did they offer to the community that allowed them to continue to roam the streets after committing their crimes? Do we need more police?

Did the perps get a slap on the wrist because they were juveniles? Maybe they received probation from a lenient court system or was it an overcrowded jail that allowed them to be at the church’s parking lot last Sunday?

But the community and the victim’s family will never know, because the law protects juveniles 16 and under – the community’s rights are not even taken into account. People’s property and their lives are obviously placed at risk every day because these teenagers are not retained under our current justice system.

Police Chief Chet Epperson has been quoted that up to 80% of the crime is committed by repeat offenders, who are on parole or probation – recidivism is not being controlled through alternatives to incarceration, because the truly hardened criminals are not counted by the system.

Our rights, as law abiding citizens, are just as important as these “underage” juvenile’s rights, especially repeat offenders, and the community should be considered during their rehabilitation.

However, a bill has just been introduced in the General Assembly to prevent even the 17 year old in this case from being treated as an adult. It is a step backward for community rights. It is one of the recommendations by the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission appointed by Gov. Pat Quinn.

The 24 member commission, chaired by retired Chief Judge George Timberlake, is recommending changes to the juvenile justice system that will emphasize rehabilitation and support alternatives to incarceration — a focus shift the commission predicts will produce massive savings for the state’s Department of Juvenile Justice.

It wouldn’t be a savings to the Winnebago County’s detention center, however, which would have to be expanded to house 17 year old inmates, even those who have committed felonies, according to the commission, and who would now be considered juveniles in all cases, with the possible exception of murder.

It would be another unfunded state mandate on local taxpayers. It would decrease the safety of the community and alternatives to incarceration have been shown not to work on those criminals who are not ready to change their behavior.

The commission’s full report may be found at the following link, http://ijjc.illinois.gov/rta

I wonder if Karen Shafer’s family feels that the Juvenile Justice System in the State of Illinois has been too harsh on teenage criminals and is justified in raising the age of juvenile criminals to 17?

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18 Comments

  1. Young hoodlums grow up to be middle-aged hoodlums because they are given a “compassionate” slap on the wrist at every bad event early in life. If they are old enough to drive they are old enough to be identified for violating driving rules. Wreckless homocide is also usually a 10-14 year prison sentence. Let’s see how our “tough” state’s attorney’s office does on this one.

    it’s even more sad that the governor/liberal commisions are fighting for the “rights” of young hoodlums like this. Appalling!

  2. My father and I drove past that accident after getting breakfast this weekend, such a senseless death.

    Rockford needs to get more police, considering that we are far short of the national average (1.7 per 1,000 residents, national average 2.7 per 1,000 residents according to city-data.com).

    That being said, our crime rate is about double the national average. Correlation does not necessarily equate to cause, but in this case I think adding about 200 police officers is worth a shot.

    On this you and I can assuredly agree Ted, Rockford’s crime is a problem that requires significant resources and manpower at this stage.

  3. JRM_CommonSense

    The city of Rockford cannot even come close to hiring 200 additional police officers. It has trouble hiring even 20 because of some of the union rules. Attracting experienced officiers is next to impossible because they cannot be brought in at rank. They have to start at the lowest rank and work their way up again. Would any of you non-public workers stand for that? Didn’t think so.

    Geo-policing is part of the answer because it staffs the the various parts of the city with the same officers who have a better opportunity to know and understand the problems, the trouble makers, and the good guys. It is like a group of workers who work in the same area every day with the same people. They become more productive as they get attuned to the rhythm and dynamics of the team.

    • Ted Biondo

      I certainly agree with your statement, JRM, concerning hired officers being brought in at rank. I have to admit Geo-policing sounds like the way to go, but I haven’t looked at all the details and ramifications of this issue as yet.

  4. It is not the citizen getting mugged, or stabbed, or raped, or shot ats fault that the city cannot make a decent union contract. They need to bring in more police (better police?).

    Rockford is in fact a miserable place to live largely because of crime. Forbes was right in this respect, and if we do not take strong action (like a drastically changed union contract to make improved police protection feasible) Rockford wil remain a cesspool of crime.

    Geopolicing may be a step in the right direction, but it does not make up for the lack of 100-200 uniformed bodies on patrol that are needed.

  5. dogrescuer

    I have to agree with Ted on this one. (Will wonders never cease?) A 16-year-old punk can be just as dangerous as an adult criminal, sometimes more so because of immature judgment. Society should be kept aware of them.

    • Ted Biondo

      Thanks dogrescuer, I knew we could see eye to eye on something. This issue is a real problem all over the country. And now the state is about to make it worse with this commission making 17 year olds juveniles even if they commit felonies?!

  6. I don’t see why we need names. We just need our justice system to handle the problem. Knowing who did this isn’t going to change anything. If you really wanted names it wouldn’t be that hard to find these kids either. I’m sure the names are all over facebook. You just need to know where to look. That said it would of done this poor lady no good to know who these hood rats were.

    I don’t know if we need more police or not. I ‘ll leave that up to people who are much smarter then me. What we do need is for the police we do have to focus on real crime. It is much to easy for the police to pick the low hanging fruit and avoid doing real police work. To many police officers spend their days busting marijuana smokers. Then these arrest clog up our court system and make it that much tougher for prosecutors to seek punishment for the real criminals. These same folks then end up filling our prisons and costing us way to much money. We already have the largest prison population in the world. You can’t say we’re afraid to lock people up. We need to take a step back and look at what our police are focused on.

    Personally I have been arrested for marijuana. I was caught with maybe 5 dollars worth of marijuana. I’m an older gent and have never been in trouble with the law. Two officers took me back to the cop shop and held me for about 7 hours. While this was happening they brought out the drug dogs and two more officers went through my vehicle. You pretty much had four cops spend one day on an arrest for five dollars worth of marijuana. Police work at its finest. I didn’t have a problem with the officers. Their job is their job. I think after a while they felt bad for what was happening to me. We ended up sitting around and talked all day. At the end of their shift they dropped me back off at my vehicle and that was that. If you’re wondering I wasn’t driving. The cops came to a place that I was at looking for someone else when I was caught. I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    After my arrest i had to deal with the courts. The da was nice enough to offer me a deal. Go to rehab and they would drop the charges. The best part was they wanted me to attend classes for alcohol and I don’t even drink. It was just one big scam to pad the rehab numbers. I told them no thanks I’ll just pay the fine. The judge was blown away that I would be so crazy. I ended up paying a 700 dollar fine and losing my drivers license for 6 months for bothering no one.

    Like I said above I had no problem with the cops or anyone involved in the case. Everyone involved was just doing their job and I did break the law. But what a waste of time and resources. Maybe if so much time and resources wasn’t wasted on something as silly as marijuana the real scum wouldn’t be free to rob people while they at church.

    • Ted Biondo

      Joe,

      I think we need the names and the other information I mentioned to make sure everyone in the community is aware of who these kids are so they can watch out for them when the courts let them out as they most surely will except for possibly the driver. Even he, under current state law, as a juvenile, might only serve only part of the term he should have and will be back on the streets.

      People in the area need to know who to look out for in the future. Cross checks on data for those trying to help or punish criminals of all ages need to have access to every record regardless of their age!

  7. If they are committing adult felony crimes, they should be named.

  8. How many people in this area have a criminal record? You would have to be one smart cookie to keep track of them all.

    You have one of their names. Where does he live? Do you even know what he looks like or what school he went to? What good is knowing his name doing you? Will you remember the name in 6 months?

    Their is 486 registered sex offenders in Rockford. How many can you name? If I showed you pictures how many could you match to a name?

    I understand you want a name. But it don’t matter. We just need the system to work and make sure they are punished.

  9. Public humility goes a long ways towards changing someone’s life. A slap on the wrist or probation is like a free pass. Nobody is the wiser.

  10. Ok so do we need to know their names for our safety, or to make sure they are embarrassed? I’m thinking being embarrassed is the least of these kids worries. I also think wanting these kids to be embarrassed is a selfish desire that does nothing for the lady who was killed.

    In 2010 there were 940 juvenile cases just in winnebago county. If they had released all the names you would be able to remember who was who?

    In 2004 Erick Flynn was stabbed at a bonfire. The man that stabbed him was found guilty or murder in 2005. This mans name was all over the news. Now with out looking it up what was his name?

    Can you tell me the name of the Roscoe man that strangled his mother in 2008 and stashed the body in a car?

    These are local murder cases and I’m guessing you couldn’t name either man. But I’m suppose to believe you will recall the names of a couple juveniles on parole? And knowing these names will some how make it possible to avoid the intersection they are racing through when the police are chasing them? That is insane.

    I hope justice is served for this lady. I also hope this is a lesson to the next group of teens that go out stealing how quickly things can go bad. A small crime just became huge. Many lives were effected that day and for what? A radar detector? An Ipod? Maybe a gps unit? It is beyond screwed up.

    • Ted Biondo

      I want the names, so people in the immediate vicinity of the juvenile knows who to watch out for, not that everyone in the city would remeber the name for God’s sake.

  11. To grant protection to “juvenile” criminals who are 15, 16, 17 yrs of age with some new legislation is a crime against our society. The legislators should be drawn and quartered. These “kids” know what’s right and wrong and if they are protected from paying the price for doing the crime, they aren’t going to think twice about doing it. These kids were committing multiple crimes at the same time and caused the death of one of our innocent citizens. Completely innocent bystander is killed because these “kids” were committing serious adult crimes. They should not be sent to a juvenile facility. Joe B needs to earn his pay and prosecute these criminals as adults. Don’t do the crime if you can’t afford to do the time. They knew what they were doing. Prosecute them accordingly.

  12. So its the people in the local vicinity you want to protect. I see. So do you know the name of the registered sex offender living closest to you? I doubt it. Can you point out who in your neighborhood has a felony arrest record? I doubt it. Did you check to make sure the name we were given isn’t someone in your neighborhood? i doubt it.

    I know the kids in my neighborhood to watch out for. I don’t need to see their names in the paper. I don’t need to wait for them to get caught breaking the law to know who they are. I’m sure you know whose trouble in your neighborhood as well. Who ever these kids were, I’m sure their neighbors knew they were trouble. I’m not buying the idea you want their names to make sure people closest to them are protected.

    So at what age is a kid considered an adult? Do you think all kids mature at the same rate? Meaning is every 15 year old kid on the same level. At what age do you want to start outing kids? My 1st grader recently stole a keyring. Should he be outed in the paper? Does he need to be put on some kind of watch list so my neighbors can keep an eye on him? How far do you guys want to take this?

    I have a 17 year old child. Couldn’t be further from being an adult. She knows right from wrong. But I don’t know if she has the smarts to avoid being say the kid in the back seat when something bad went down. She has book smarts, but she is dumber then a box of rocks when it comes to street smarts. She isn’t ready for the real world yet. I would hate to see her life ruined because of something that happened now. I think when you have kids arrested for a crime you have to look at them case by case. Is the kid a thug, or are they still at home watching the disney channel. I was a man at 17. I lived on my own. Had my own place. Did my own thing. I was someone that if I was arrested should of been charged as an adult. My 17 year old that just figured out wrestling on tv is fake shouldn’t be charged as an adult. She still has a ways to go.

    I think what we should be focusing on now is how to prevent the next teens from heading down this road. Address why kids are stealing from cars in a church parking lot. We should be more worried about preventing the next death instead of embarrassing those who committed this crime. I would rather prevent my own death, then know that if a kid killed me ted biondo would know his name.

  13. ted, until the city and county police work together to get the drugs off our streets this will never end.

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