NEW ROADS — The City Council has decided to allocate $60,000 to try to address a recent outbreak of petty thefts and other crimes by local teens.
Details on exactly how the money will be spent are still vague, but the initial idea from city leaders is to use it to pay the cost of housing teenage criminals at youth detention centers elsewhere.
Most parishes, including Pointe Coupee, don't have facilities to house juvenile offenders. And finding spots at the state's few youth detention centers is difficult.
City Councilman Kurt Kellerman said local teens are well aware that parishes across the state are struggling to place their juvenile offenders, which has made them brazen with local law enforcement.
"The current process seems to be a catch and release program for troubled juveniles," Kellerman said. "These kids are smart. They know that there is 'no room at the inn,' and they know there are no consequences for their actions."
He added, "Every time we've had meetings with parish and state officials about this, all we came up with is we don't have the money to deal with it."
Kellerman asked the City Council this week to support a resolution setting aside the $60,000, which the council unanimously supported. He said his action was driven by complaints from citizens who have been the victims of youth crime recently.
One local resident, Jimmy Duckworth, said nearly everyone on his block has been burglarized by teens. The 60-year-old claims one teenager even threatened him outside of his home.
"I could sense the frustration in the officer from having to deal with these juveniles when I had my run-in," he said. "Every day our law enforcement is mostly driving around having to babysit children."
While parishes statewide struggle to place their juvenile offenders, officials in Ascension,…
Many parishes have shuttered their youth detention centers over the years due to new state mandates requiring they have services like teachers, social workers and medical care access for offenders, which many couldn't afford.
That means parishes like Pointe Coupee have to pay to send youthful offenders to facilities in other areas.
New Roads Police Chief Kevin McDonald said most of the teenagers they arrest now are placed on house arrest and ordered by the court to wear ankle bracelets because there's no youth detention center in the vicinity to place them.
But, the chief said, ankle bracelet monitoring is not always effective. Juveniles don't keep the batteries charged on the devices, he said, and the court really has no other punishment to dole out when they don't.
"They aren't scared because they know there's nothing else the court can really do so they'll go back out and do other stuff," McDonald said. "It's mostly petty crimes, but we need to send a message that we're not going to tolerate this."
Kellerman believes that once the city is able to send some of the juveniles to youth detention centers, it will scare off others, who think they can just commit a crime and be sent back home, from making the same mistake.
"I want the citizens to know that we are aware of the problems with break-ins and the juveniles and we are working toward a solution," he said. "The $60,000 toward this problem will be a start."