Residents call for solutions to juvenile crime

July 06, 1995|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Staff Writer

A town angered by juvenile crime fought back last night.

About 200 people -- 25 percent of the population of New Windsor -- filled Town Hall to question police, the state's attorney and juvenile service officials about what to do concerning vandalism, constant curfew violations and unsupervised young people.

"Recurring vandalism is tearing at the fabric of our small town," Mayor Jack A. Gullo Jr. said. "We have had enough. We are taking our community back. We will not let it be destroyed by anything."

Enzo Marconi, head of the Carroll County Department of Juvenile Justice, was correct when he assumed he "would be taking most of the darts tossed" during a nearly two-hour discussion.

When he called juveniles "the future of this country," many in the crowd jeered.

"We play a crucial role, but our emphasis by law is on guidance, treatment and rehabilitation," Mr. Marconi said.

Residents seemed to want punishment particularly for chronic offenders, who they said often are charged, then back on the town's streets within a few hours.

"How many times will you lock them up and let them go?" asked Tony Ferace, a victim of a recent spate of vandalism. "You got the older people in this town scared to death."

But Sheriff John Brown said: "You can't blame the police, if the courts slap these kids on the wrist and turn them back on the streets. Go to your legislators. Let them change the laws and put teeth in the laws."

Many of the juveniles are first-time offenders, Mr. Marconi said. He also cited statistics that said New Windsor represents only about 5 percent of the total juvenile complaints in Carroll County.

Statistics mattered little to Thelma Johnson, another victim of vandalism, who said she has trouble sleeping. The same errant juveniles have frequently banged on her door at 4 a.m., she said.

"Why not jail their parents?" she asked, amid applause.

Councilman Ronnie Blacksten earned more applause when he suggested "community service for the parents right along with the kids."

State Del. Donald B. Elliott, a District 4B Republican, called for more substantive discipline.

"Not enough is done initially to deter the juveniles," Mr. Elliott said. "The law says reasonable corporal punishment is permitted, yet Social Services ignores it. Maybe these kids could use a trip to the Baltimore City Jail, where they can see where the life they are starting leads."

Josh Lindemon said that he reported "eight curfew violations by the same kid. Two weeks later, the same kid was charged with 17 counts of vandalism, and I have still not heard from the counselor I reported him to initially."

Law enforcement officers called for community cooperation.

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