If you didn’t think there were ramifications when a minor is charged with a crime, then you should have heard the presentation from Carlos Martinez, a veteran public defender in the Miami-Dade County court system, who discusses some 70,000 cases per year.
“The consequences are extremely serious,” said Martinez, the first Spanish public defender to be elected in the United States. “It impacts scholarships, benefits in the future, even a misdemeanor… when a child is arrested (this file) goes to the FBI. If that child ever applies for the military, a federal job, or law enforcement (chances are, an arrest could affect their future).
Martinez was one of the guest speakers at Monday night’s special council meeting at the Key Biscayne Village Council Chamber on “Policing and How to Improve It.” His ‘Scared Straight’ message to children and parents follows a recent spike in youthful misconduct that escalated from theft of candy from stores to thefts of golf carts and vandalism to a recent aggravated battery against an adult .
And, if you didn’t hear his message Monday night, chances are you will. Council members were in favor of showing excerpts of his conversation at PTA meetings and on the village government website, and possibly providing a list of consequences of arrest to all households in the village. ‘Isle.
Ideas from the community were welcome on how to deal with minors and their parents, who may be the root of the problem in some, if not most, cases, according to many residents who spoke.
In all, 30 residents responded to the topic, half of those in village rooms for the three-hour sharing session attended by new village manager Steve Williamson and police chief Charles Press. .
Among the ideas submitted were:
Assemble community watch groups, in which members could quickly notify the police of suspicious activity on a non-emergency line;
Hire social workers or other rehabilitation programs and charge parents for these;
Adding additional police officers to the 36-person staff for the approximately 13,000 residents;
Ask real estate agents and/or chamber of commerce representatives to provide expectations or seminars to incoming property buyers;
Ensure that children and/or parents pay compensation in the event of vandalism and property damage.
“I think we can call this evening a success,” Mayor Mike Davey said of the wide range of ideas discussed and the passion Key Biscayne residents have shown to address the issue.
Council members Luis Lauredo and Allison McCormick have hinted that the village is moving closer or should move closer to a “zero tolerance policy”, although at least one citizen, Martinez and Chief Press, said that there are options, especially because every circumstance is different.
In Miami-Dade County, for example, State’s Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle created what’s called a “civil citation,” or an alternative to arresting a minor.
Martinez calls it the “baby criminal system” because “you get a free shot. That’s why youth crime in Miami-Dade is down,” he said. “(And during the arrest process) they’ll bring in the parents. I know for people in wealthy situations, their time is important, and they’re not going to like that.”
Martinez mentioned that in Florida, if a child is arrested for theft over $750, that arrest becomes a public record, but the juvenile case, resulting in say $100 in damages, would remain confidential under Florida law. And even if the grand theft case is dismissed, private companies, which many potential employers and landlords use for background checks, obtain and sell these public documents to employers or businesses from federal agencies requesting background checks. .
Lauredo raised a point that citizens often ask him. “Why are minors not prosecuted? »
Martinez said that in cases of homicide, sexual assault or armed robbery, those cases are transferred to adult court.
“But the prosecution depends on the witnesses who show up in court,” he said. “Otherwise (if no one shows up), the case is dismissed.”
Miami-Dade County Assistant Attorney J. Scott Dunn was also a guest speaker Monday night.
“Our primary focus (in juvenile court) is rehabilitation, not punishment in adulthood,” Dunn said. “A lot of (these cases) end up in plea deals … but sexual assault, armed robbery, the worst of the worst go to the direct file. We go through hundreds and hundreds of cases… We want to stop this in juvenile court. We can’t save every child, but we try.
One of the issues Dunn faces is if the miner “ages” out of the system, say 17, approaching 18. “Our jurisdiction ends at 19, so we lose this case forever.”
According to Chief Press, 12 of 20 arrests on the island this year have involved minors. His department issued 66 civil citations for minors on golf carts, 50 trespassing warnings and 27 violations of the county’s teen curfew.
Each time, he says, they ask mom and dad to come to the scene. “We took them out of restaurants or entertainment (areas) or woke them up. We are fully engaged with parents now. We take this to the next level, always trying to do our best. »
Williamson agreed to “come up with a plan” and will gather ideas from council members and meet with the head of the press before a follow-up village council meeting on June 15.
The “perception” of crime in Key Biscayne might seem greater than it actually is, according to at least two council members.
“(But) one person who doesn’t feel safe going to CVS or walking their dog at night is one too many,” McCormick said. “This (meeting) was an incredible demonstration of what our community can do, with so many great suggestions for our staff to consider, and it’s a reason why we chose to live here.”