Monitoring bracelet doesn’t stop NJ teen from stealing car with 7-year-old, cops say
NEWARK — He's back behind bars. But for how long?
A teenage miscreant who police say carjacked a vehicle with a 7-year-old inside Friday afternoon was wearing an electronic monitoring bracelet. The device had been a condition of his release from custody on a previous offense.
The young thief — described by police as a "known repeat offender" — stole the vehicle in the Ironbound section and was caught on another side of town after crashing into several cars. The child was uninjured.
In announcing the arrest, police on Saturday took a swipe at the state's criminal justice reform, which did away with the bail system, even though the new rules do not apply to juvenile defendants.
"Newark Police are routinely arresting suspects who have been released because of bail reform and resume their criminal activities upon being released, often while wearing a monitoring bracelet," officials said, declining to provide specific statistics until a news conference next week.
Ever since the bail system was changed in January, police departments across the state have complained that violent offenders and crooks have been let out of jail only to quickly commit more crimes.
The new law allows judges to release most criminal defendants without bail. Instead, judges place certain monitoring restrictions on them. For the first time, judges can consider a defendant's potential risk to the safety of the community. Judges also take into account a juvenile criminal record, past failure to appear in court and the weight of evidence for a pending charge.
The previous system allowed almost anyone with enough money to get out of jail while poorer defendants waited behind bars while their case wound through the court system, sometimes taking years.
As of the end of October, judges across New Jersey had released 70.5 percent of all defendants with monitoring conditions, while 7.7 percent were released with only a future date to appear and less than 18 percent were ordered held without bail.
The new rules, however, would not apply to the suspect in this case because he is a minor. Rules regarding juvenile defendants have not changed, a New Jersey courts spokesman said Monday.
Despite protestations by law enforcement, crime has been trending downward this year. Statewide, violent and nonviolent crimes were down 3.5 percent at the end of October. In Newark, the drop has been more dramatic, with a 19 percent decrease in all crime, according to data compiled by the State Police.
But city police on Saturday said that repeat offenders hitting the streets are part of a "continuing trend" that "is resulting in an increase in crime." Officials could not immediately provide detailed statistics when asked by New Jersey 101.5.
Police did not name the carjacker, whose identity is protected because he is under age.
Officials say he stole a women's Ford F-150 about 3:30 on Darcy Street near Magazine Street. He kicked the child out of the car on Ferry and St. Charles streets.
The Ford crashed into several parked vehicles before colliding with a Jeep Cherokee at Schley Street and Chancellor Avenue in the Weequahic section.
Police say they caught him after he ran away. He was charged with kidnapping, assault by eluding, eluding, child endangerment, theft and criminal restraint.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This article has been updated to include a clarification that the state bail reform rules do not apply to juvenile defendants.
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Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.