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House Republicans Launch Petition Process for Special Session on Juvenile Crime Crisis

Posted on July 7, 2021


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HARTFORD — House Republicans on Wednesday kickstarted the call for immediate legislative action on the juvenile crime crisis that has gripped communities throughout the state, officially launching a petition effort to bring all state lawmakers into session to implement reforms.

“This crisis has gone too long without meaningful intervention from the legislature, generating not just more citizen concern but dire outcomes for defenseless victims,” said House Republican Leader Vincent Candelora, who is joined by Deputy Leaders Jason Perillo, Rosa Rebimbas, Laura Devlin, Lezlye Zupkus, and Tom O’Dea in calling for action. “The crimes that occurred over the last seven days, combined with the seriousness of many more instances over the past months should be enough to compel every member of the General Assembly to act.”

House Republican leaders were among the more than 40 members of the House Republican caucus who attended a news conference at the capitol, where they were joined by chief elected officials and top law enforcement officials from New Britain and Wolcott—the sites of crimes last week that intensified the spotlight on the state’s juvenile justice system. Police Chiefs Christopher Chute (New Britain) and Edward Stephens (Wolcott) where on hand, as were New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart and Wolcott Mayor Thomas Dunn.

The crime in New Britain, where a 53-year-old pedestrian was killed when he was struck by a stolen vehicle, raised alarm statewide when it was revealed that a 17-year-old charged in connection with the crime had been arrested 13 times in less than four years.

Addressing motor vehicle thefts by juveniles was a top priority for House Republicans heading into the legislative session in January. Ultimately, Democrat lawmakers would not act on Republican proposals to hold juveniles—repeat offenders, in particular—accountable for the serious criminal acts they commit.

In their call for action Wednesday, House Republicans say the General Assembly must enact legislation concerning juveniles who are repeat felony offenders. Republicans highlighted just a few of their proposals:

  • Allowing courts to order investigations of family circumstances of repeat offenders, authorizing post-arrest detention if such juveniles are deemed to be risks to public safety;
  • Eliminating the six-hour limit on detaining such juveniles without a court order;
  • Requiring courts to electronically monitor juveniles charged with stealing a car while they are awaiting trial for car theft until criminal proceedings are resolved.

“We recognize that our Democrat colleagues have and will likely continue to prioritize intervention and diversionary programs as methods to curb this exploding problem, and while we agree those concepts should play a role, what’s transpired over the last few days is clear evidence that we need to inject a measure of accountability into the system to achieve the balance that’s missing right now,” House Republican leaders said. “As it stands, these offenders know they’ll get only a slap on the wrist if they steal a car—that they’ll be back on the street in no time at all and can do it again if they choose. That’s something which must change.”

The governor can also call members of the General Assembly into a special legislative session. While lawmakers can call themselves back to Hartford by petition—a majority of the membership in each chamber, House and Senate, must file petitions with the office of the Secretary of the State.

Rep. Nicole Klarides-Ditria signs a petition for a special legislative session.

“We hope our colleagues join us in this process to take action on this issue that cuts across political lines,” the Republican leaders said. “Whether it’s Wolcott or New Britain, or shots fired in Glastonbury or Simsbury, these crimes are happening in communities throughout Connecticut. Residents and victims deserve to see the people they send to Hartford to represent them working on this public safety crisis. While we’ll continue to hold informal conversations with our colleagues on this topic, launching an official effort is wholly appropriate.”