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State Senator

Joan Hartley

Representing Waterbury, Middlebury & Naugatuck

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Senator Hartley, Waterbury Legislators and Leaders Support Repeat Juvenile Offender Legislation

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Rep. Ron Napoli (D-Waterbury,) Rep. Geraldo Reyes (D-Waterbury), Waterbury Chief of Police Fernando C. Spagnolo, State Senator Joan Hartley (D-Waterbury and Rep. Stephanie Cummings (R-Waterbury) testify Tuesday in support of House Bill No. 7332.

HARTFORD, CT – Today, State Senator Joan Hartley (D-Waterbury) testified with Representative and Waterbury Alderman Ron Napoli (D-Waterbury), Rep. Stephanie Cummings (R-Waterbury), Rep. Geraldo Reyes (D-Waterbury) and Waterbury Chief of Police Fernando C. Spagnolo in support of legislation that would address the escalating public safety issue resulting from repeat juvenile offender motor vehicle theft. The bill in question is designed to hold young offenders accountable and strengthen juvenile justice reform laws.

On Tuesday, the Public Safety and Security Committee discussed House Bill No. 7332, “An Act Concerning Public Safety and the Welfare of Repeat Juvenile Offenders and their Victims.” This legislation is designed to require juveniles charged with theft of a motor vehicle to have their cases transferred to criminal court when they have a history of prior felony adjudications or convictions.

“Its purpose is to address an extremely targeted group of repeat juvenile offenders who are engaged in auto theft and whose habitual crimes have escalated to the level of a serious public safety risk, not only to themselves but to the general public at large,” said Sen. Hartley. Sen. Hartley described an incident where Waterbury Alderman Victor Lopez was nearly struck head-on by a vehicle driven by two 14-year-old teenagers who were taking a stolen car for a joyride at 7:30 a.m. while Lopez was driving his children to school. “It’s manifesting itself throughout our city and throughout our state,” Sen. Hartley said.

“In 2018, in the city of Waterbury, 972 cars were stolen,” said Chief Spagnolo, “and the majority of these cars were stolen by juveniles.” He said 52 juveniles were arrested for cases of stealing a motor vehicle, and of them, six repeat offenders were arrested, on average, ten times each and charged with 75 total crimes and 41 felonies. One of those six offenders was arrested in early March in further auto theft related crimes, he continued.

“It is astounding to me that six of the 684 juveniles arrested in 2018 were responsible for nearly 10 percent of the charges brought against juveniles in Waterbury,” Chief Spagnolo said, adding that the vast majority of youths in his city overcome challenges in their lives to contribute to society. Nineteen juveniles were arrested in car crashes in 2018, he added. “These children are putting themselves at risk each and every day. Albeit they’re a small percentage of the population of children involved in the juvenile justice system, nevertheless they are in grave danger. The way we are handling these juvenile multiple repeat offenders is not working, not only in Waterbury but statewide. We are putting these children at risk and we are exposing our community to danger. This bill, if enacted, will provide consequences for children who are no longer getting the help from community-based services provided by the juvenile court.”

Motor vehicle theft is the only category of juvenile crime that has seen arrests increase in Connecticut in the last decade, according to The Sentencing Project, a Washington D.C. nonprofit. More than 7,000 vehicles were stolen across the state in 2017, said Rep. Cummings, reflecting the increasing trend. “It’s impacting all of our communities, and it’s something we need to address in our communities,” she said.

“This is now affecting quality of life and people’s lives are now being affected, sometimes to the point of funerals,” said Rep. Reyes, who said his friend’s daughter was killed in a car crash caused by a stolen vehicle. “It’s getting out of control. In my estimation, the law is leaning toward ‘too lenient.’ Repeat offenders need to be dealt with in a different way.”

“Repeated auto thefts have had a negative impact on many communities across our state,” said Rep. Napoli. “This afternoon, I stood with my colleagues to support legislation that would treat repeated auto thefts with a sense of seriousness.”

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