Arson, boredom add up to another felony

Just got word of an incident that points to what appears to be a recurring problem in our little corner of this friendly planet. And we don’t seem to be alone in this difficulty.

In a December issue of your WPJ, you might remember a story of an 11-year old who allegedly set fire to a house after he had been sent home for bad behavior. His reason for torching the residence, according to his statement to one of our authorities? He was bored.

Arson and boredom got the kid an all-expense paid trip to Ware Youth Center in Coushatta. There he stayed until his release, reportedly, “due to lack of space.” One might also read that to mean, he was the lesser of evils from an incarceration standpoint. 

Unfortunately, a couple of weeks in the juvy pokey didn’t adjust an attitude and this same juvenile got bored again. This time, rather than tossing a match into a gas-soaked house, he hiked his hiney into someone’s automobile and hit the gas. According to police reports, the enterprising youngster used a metal rod to reach the pedals, leading officers on a chase from Shreveport Rd. to Homer Rd. and back again at speeds, shall we say, exceeding the posted limit.

After eventually crashing into a pair of city police vehicles, the youngster was finally taken into custody. He’s facing charges that would make an adult offender blush. He’s also back at Ware, making one wonder if another youthful offender is back on the streets to make room for this frequent flyer.

All this occurred in the wee hours of the morning. Minden’s chief of police reportedly was informed of the ongoing pursuit around 1:30 a.m. That probably means the theft occurred significantly after midnight, and it also means an 11-year old was doing whatever he pleased, whenever he pleased and he wasn’t the least concerned about consequences.

What can we do to effectively combat juvenile crime. First and most obvious: parental involvement. But, as we have learned over the course of many years, that’s one of the most difficult solutions to achieve. 

As we heard months ago when Minden’s proposed juvenile curfew was discussed, more than one speaker considered such a thing an intrusion on privacy. It’s the old, “they’re my kids and if they want to be out at night it’s their right” argument. To far too many, this attitude only enforces the “I can do anything I want to do and it’s none of your business” reasoning.

One stated solution to the increase is more room for juvenile incarceration. Currently, local juvenile offenders are sent to Ware but a lack of space pre-adjudication sends many youngsters back to their parents or guardians.  With only 32 beds to house juveniles over a six-parish area, the musical chairs game of who stays and who goes continues practically unabated. 

Just for grins, would you be interested to know that once a juvenile is incarcerated, the individuals tasked with supervision (a.k.a., guards) are not allowed to forcefully restrain a troublesome perpetrator. If you’re looking for a rewarding career, please consider one that allows a kid to spit, hit, kick or throw human waste on you without fear of restraint or retaliation. And, you do this for about fifteen bucks an hour. Plus benefits, of course.

During a special meeting with various public and law enforcement officials, Minden City Judge Sherb Sentell sought input on solutions to what is becoming a revolving door of juvenile crime without facilities to house the offenders. 

Of course, the state option was considered but that’s one that would be long on fruition and short on functionals. Applying for and receiving capital outlay funds is about a three to four year process, and those dollars only help with construction. Like far too many other instances, the state may say something’s a good idea but seems to always stop short of providing funding to make a good idea work. The ol’ unfunded mandate.

In other words, if the state says yes to handing over construction money it’s up to the several parishes in the system to come up with operating money…day by day, year after year.

So here we are. Increase in juvenile crime isn’t just a law enforcement problem, it’s a societal issue. Officers can make arrests daily, but they (like us) would prefer prevention over detention. Curfews have not been a real deterrent to crime numbers, but such a law could be a tool to allow officers to, as Barney says, “Nip it in the bud.” If an 11-year-old, or a group of similars is roaming around after midnight, it’s doubtful they’re on the way to a spelling bee.

And now, a point of personal privilege. Congratulations to a favorite corresponder, business tycoon and land baron, Sol A. Here’s raising to you a toast with your beverage of choice, reposado de agave. We’re keeping extra in storage to celebrate your future successes, including the two new businesses you’re opening in the parish. 

— Pat Culverhouse

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