Bill seeks notice of delinquents' trips McCabe wants juvenile facilities to warn police

February 07, 1993|By Frank Langfitt | Frank Langfitt,Staff Writer

If a teen-age criminal visits your community on a field trip, State Sen. Christopher J. McCabe thinks local police should know about it.

Mr. McCabe, a Howard County Republican, has introduced a bill the General Assembly requiring state juvenile facilities to notify local police of field trips in their jurisdictions.

The state Department of Juvenile Services opposes the bill, but won't say why -- at least not yet.

"We would prefer to deal with the merits of the bill as written during the legislative hearing, which is the appropriate forum," said Jacqueline Lampell, the department's director of community outreach.

Senate Bill 268, as it is known, is in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. A hearing has not been scheduled.

The bill grew out of a rape nearly two years ago at Centennial Park in Columbia. A group of juvenile offenders from the state-owned Thomas O'Farrell Youth Center in Marriottsville .

visited the park in April 1991.

During the field trip, supervisors sent 15-year-old Antonio Lee Perry to look for two other juveniles who had wandered off. Perry, who had previously been convicted of raping a 15-year-old girl, raped a jogger in the park that day. Perry pleaded guilty to second-degree rape and was sentenced to 15 years in prison last summer.

For the first week after the attack, Howard County police struggled for leads.

"We had to basically start from scratch," said Howard County Police Chief James N. Robey.

It was only when Perry returned to the park the next week on another field trip that police identified him as a suspect.

"Obviously, if we had been aware that these individuals were at the park . . . it would've made our job a lot easier," said Chief Robey, who supports the bill.

After the rape, Mr. McCabe, who represents District 14, met with community members. They recommended that the state notify law officials before such outings. Mr. McCabe pitched the idea to state officials. After they refused, he drafted the bill.

"They're concerned about the civil rights of the juveniles," he said. State officials said that if local agencies knew about field trips, they might dispatch extra staff to parks and question teens who looked suspicious, according to Mr. McCabe.

"Frankly, I think the concern for public safety . . . far outweighs that stigma," he said.

Timothy McCrone, an Ellicott City attorney who represents the rape victim, said he favored the bill.

"I, frankly, still have significant difficulty understanding why juvenile services would take juvenile sex offenders to a . . . park," he said.

The victim had no comment on the legislation, Mr. McCrone said.

The O'Farrell Center is run by a private firm, the Massachusetts-based North American Family Institute. Since the rape, the state has made some changes.

It ordered increased staffing levels for field trips at O'Farrell. It also told other privately run juvenile facilities to submit statements on how they handle field trips.

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