- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 17, 2006

With the District’s recent rise in juvenile crime, the Metropolitan Police Department says it now charges one in every six arrested juveniles with a violent crime, compared to one in every 20 adults. Police can’t begin to address that problem if they can’t identify the most dangerous repeat offenders — which they currently cannot. To correct this, the D.C. Council must approve the Mandatory Juvenile Public Safety Notification Amendment Act of 2006, which enables police to have access to case records for the worst offenders.

The one-in-six figure was just one of the points Police Chief Chuck Ramsey raised last week to persuade council members that police need more tools to address the rise in juvenile crime. “Today, it is not uncommon for us to see packs of three or four or more juveniles, some of them armed, committing street robberies in our city,” he says. Or worse. Police said Thursday that they think DeAngelo Borras, 13, of Southwest — slain Wednesday night outside an apartment complex on Irvington Street SW — was the victim of two teenagers.

Violent crime, burglaries and arson have decreased in Washington over the last several years, but juvenile crime remains a blemish on the District’s record, and police have a less-than-adequate picture of trends in juvenile crime because of the overly restrictive rules.

The juvenile public-safety legislation would require courts to furnish police with case records for three types of juvenile offenders: those who commit violent crimes, those charged with unauthorized use of vehicles and those who have been arrested more than twice.

This somehow qualifies as “controversial.” Some argue that allowing police to have access to these records could lead to harassment. This is highly theoretical. The immediate effect would be to inform police of whom the most dangerous offenders are. It is difficult to oppose this idea in good faith: Without this information, police are handcuffed.

In our view, it is more troubling that police don’t have access to this vital information as a crime prevention tool. The D.C. Council should enact the bill into law, and do it now.

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