Two ranking Providence police officers said Monday the department has identified several suspects in the recent rash of property crimes in the neighborhood and have even made some arrests, but the complex mission of the juvenile justice system has resulted in their release.
However, both officers repeatedly urged residents, should they see anything even a little bit suspicious, to call police.
Speaking to a meeting of the Summit Neighborhood Association’s board of directors which was attended by more than a dozen residents, Capt. George Stamatakos and Lt. John Ryan said the suspects were under 18 years of age with one being only 13. The officers pointed out that the mission of the juvenile courts was to intervene in the lives of the youths and not treat them as adult criminals.
Stamatakos said the Department of Children, Youth and Families “tries to do right by juveniles” and has a variety of programs, but “school is the best place.” He pointed out that the incidence of property crimes drops off when school resumes each fall, but he also said that the 18th birthdays of offenders is a rude awakening for them as they can be held in the Adult Correctional Institution instead of the training school.
Some residents at the meeting who said they had been victims of the property crimes asked how they could participate in the judicial process. The captain said that the Juvenile Hearing Board was one place where offenders can meet victims or when courts ask victims to present testimony. He said juveniles have special rights in criminal situations, but police can’t stop citizens from circulating information regarding suspicious activities.
Both Stamatakos and Ryan stressed the need for public participation in law enforcement. They said there is a misconception that “nice people don’t bother the police” or that calling police is somehow racist or bigoted.
The officers suggested various precautions homeowners should take, such as locking windows, securing air conditioners and making sure nothing is left in parked cars. The captain said he had “never had anything stolen from an empty car.” He also urged more lighting and alarms or video cameras, since the thieves are looking for easy access.
More police are heading for the streets, Stamatakos said, because a new class of recruits is graduating from the police academy, but he stressed community participation. He gave his direct phone number – 255-9946 – and urged people to call him. Ryan also gave his direct number – 301-7442 – and reiterated the captain’s plea for citizen interaction.