Omaha Police, prosecutors on the lookout for higher outcomes in juvenile detention

OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) – Police and prosecutors say lawmakers have tied their hands in dealing with juvenile offenders.

Last month, Bishop John Ford was threatened by three youths in northern Omaha. A 12 year old had a pocket knife. They wanted the pastor’s money when they confronted him outside the church.

“I had to assert myself. I didn’t give them anything, ”said Ford.

It turns out the 12-year-old was no stranger to the Omaha Police Department or the Douglas County Attorney’s Office.

“Not only frustrating but scary too,” said Douglas County Assistant Attorney Brenda Beadle. “We don’t have the ability to take him to a safe place where even his parents couldn’t control him. Boys Town couldn’t control him. We tried many resources on it. “

The 12-year-old, whom 6 News failed to identify because of his age, ran out of Boys Town and away from home.

Prosecutors say his case is what is wrong with the system, an example of how it is becoming increasingly difficult to arrest young people. In the youth record for this 12 year old:

  • More than a year ago, when he was 11, there were arrests for assault and theft.
  • A few months later: crime theft, reckless driving, and leaving the scene.
  • Three weeks later: obstruction.
  • From criminal mischief and theft of crime in May to attacks in June.

And then what the investigators call a spiral.

  • Three different incidents in September: from the break-in of a crime to terrorist threats to using someone else’s car, crashing into and injuring a pregnant woman.
  • And finally the pastor’s attempted robbery last month.

The 12-year-old routinely removed his anklet, according to court records.

“He would inevitably flee a place because he could – and have another violation of the law. He’s picked up again and goes home because we couldn’t lock him up; Go out and run again where there are more victims, ”said Beadle.

Aubrey Mancuso, executive director of Voices for Children in Nebraska, knows that private internships are difficult to find but points out that the youth system is about rehabilitation, not punishment.

“We know that, by and large, detention is not an effective intervention. So we should only use it in cases that are absolutely necessary, ”said Mancuso.

And they fear that if the system continues to handcuff their verdicts, there will be more victims.

Beadle said she understand and agree that the goal with juvenile offenders is to keep them out of custody, but there needs to be more discretion in such cases.

Prosecutors say the 12-year-old’s case is not standalone.

“This is not the only case. We have a number of them. “

The 12-year-old is now receiving mental health treatment in a non-state facility, more than a year after his initial charges.

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