Police forced to release violent teens due to overcrowded jails

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A local police chief says he feels like he failed at his job because he was forced to release two teenagers who allegedly stole a car and went on an epic police chase spanning several parishes.

An attempted riot at the Southeast Alabama Youth Services Diversion Center in Dothan, Alabama on July 5 prompted Alabama to say the state would no longer house Louisiana’s juveniles.

The juvenile detention centers in Louisiana do not have any room for the inmates.

“We’re just not able to do our job without a place to put a person that committed a crime whether they’re juvenile or an adult,” said Livonia Police Chief Landon Landry. “We lose sleep over things like this because we really do not feel like we’re able to do our job. We do not feel like we are doing our job at our capacity. We do not feel like we are making a difference whenever you’re watching someone that you know should be in jail walking away with a smirk on their face.”

Around 11:15 p.m. on July 17, a Livonia police officer radared a silver Honda Accord traveling 72 mph in a 55 down 190 in Livonia in Pointe Coupee Parish.

The officer tried to stop the vehicle but the driver didn’t stop. The officer called in the pursuit and the Accord’s license plate.

The car did not come back stolen, but Landry said the driver reached 120 mph swerving lane to lane. The car went through Krotz Springs at high speeds and made it to Port Barre.

Spike strips were placed in Port Barre. The strips damaged two tires but the driver continued nearly another 10 miles on the blown-out tires.

The car crashed in front of the courthouse in downtown Opelousas. One person ran and couldn’t be found but two others stayed in the car.

When the problems really began

The pair in the car were 16 and 17-year-old juveniles from New Orleans. Landry called the pair’s guardians to come to get them.

“I was told no, they’re not coming,” Landry said. “They said they were too much trouble. It was too much trouble for them to come. They were tired of getting them out of trouble. They had no means to come. They had every excuse in the book.”

The grandmother of one of the boys said she had a brother living in Opelousas. He was given guardianship of both boys and refused medical treatment.

Landry said just before they were about to clear the scene, dispatch notified them that the silver Accord was stolen from New Orleans earlier that day.

Victim speaks out

Unfiltered with Kiran spoke with the silver Honda’s original owner. The victim wanted her identity protected.

“I was working on Magazine St. in New Orleans and that’s when two guys walked into the store I was working at and they were just browsing around. They left and one of them only came back and now he had a gun in his pocket and it was visible but it wasn’t like pointing at me but it was visible,” the victim recalled. “He snatched my keys from the counter and ran out.”

New Orleans Police told Livonia Police the stolen vehicle was involved in three violent crimes, including armed robbery before arriving in Pointe Coupee Parish.

“We want to be able to do what we do for the victim for society but we are forced to simply let them sign a ticket and walk out on crimes like this because we have nowhere to put them,” Landry said. “So at this point, we are not only forced to issue a summons and release these juveniles for reckless operation and flight from an officer but now we’re forced to release them for theft of a motor vehicle.”

Laws for juveniles

Age 17 is considered a juvenile in Louisiana. The victim, who is young herself, said the two people who showed up at her job with a gun aren’t juveniles.

“I feel like they should’ve been charged as adults especially if they were involved in multiple crimes over here New Orleans and then they went all the way over to Opelousas is in a high-speed chase,” she said. “If you had to go to the point where you spiked the car, they are not kids.”

For the two juveniles who stole the car, they were released to the man living in Opelousas.

“We are just passing along a problem because at that point we are at the police department and I’m watching them walk out into another city and now this city has inherited this problem,” Landry said. “This is not right. This is not how it’s supposed to be. This is not keeping society safe. We’re not keeping society safe by letting these violent criminals out back on the street.”

There are several news laws going into effect Aug. 1 addressing juvenile crime:

  • Act 175 – Provides relative to the district attorney’s discretion to prosecute a juvenile as an adult for certain offenses.
  • Act 220 – Makes it a crime to recruit juveniles to commit crimes.
  • Act 496 – Limits the amount of time that a juvenile can be subjected to solitary confinement.
  • Act 565 – Juveniles who have committed violent crimes can not petition for deferred sentencing.
  • Act 674 – Authorizes the court to require parental involvement in probation and other court-approved decision-making.
  • Act 693 – Creates a tiered system of juvenile facilities.

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