Juveniles arrested for violent crimes 'more common than you think,' SF lawyer says

Stephanie Sierra Image
Wednesday, August 17, 2022
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Is it common for young juveniles to be suspects of violent crimes? Here's what a lawyer said.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- There are new details on the juveniles arrested in connection to a violent robbery and assault of a 70-year-old San Francisco woman. Police identified four suspects but confirm one of the juveniles is still at large.

The four suspects have been identified as 18-year-old Darryl Moore from Oakland, a 14-year-old, a 13-year-old, and an 11-year-old.

"The fact that we're here in front of you talking about 14, 13, and 11-year-olds committing violent robberies, I hope that shocks the conscience of everybody," said San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott.

It begs the question - is this common?

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"It's more common than the public wants to know," said Marc Pelta, a criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor. "Certainly, more common than you think."

Pelta has presided over hundreds of juvenile cases across the Bay Area over the past decade.

"I've encountered juveniles who are 11, 12, 13, often times it's unique to the juvenile of how young they look in court," said Pelta. "Unfortunately, this happens more often than the public realizes."

SFPD confirmed to the I-Team they're still searching for the 14-year-old suspect, the 13-year-old is still in Alameda County pending transfer to San Francisco, and the 11-year-old has been released to an adult.

"We will take it from here," said San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins during a news conference Monday.

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In 2018, Senate Bill 439 was signed into law that essentially took away discretion for DAs to charge children under 12.

"With the 11-year-old, that's going to be a community issue because he's too young to be charged with a crime," said Jenkins.

Daniel Macallair, the executive director of the Center for Juvenile and Criminal Justice based in San Francisco told ABC7 this case involving an 11-year-old is extremely rare.

"Cases like this are not common," Macallair explained.

So what happens to him?

"He's not going to be left on his own, somebody will respond," said Macallair, adding each case is treated individually and often look into the circumstances at the child's home.

"First of all you have to ask what's the situation in the home? If he's getting involved with older kids who are also getting in trouble, that's also a signal there's some turbulence back in the home and back in the neighborhood. And you design your intervention strategies accordingly," said Macallair.

According to Pelta, in California the goal of the Welfare and Institutions Code is rehabilitation first and punishment second.

"In these types of cases, especially involving juveniles this young, the chances of reoffending are very high," said Pelta.

According to a 2017 report from the California's Division on Juvenile Justice, 74.2% of youth were rearrested, 53.8% were reconvicted of new offenses, and 37.3% had returned to state custody within three years of release.

Stephanie: "What do you often see happen with juveniles that are that young?"

Pelta: "In those cases, it would routinely involve one of two options... one would be sending the juvenile to camp, some locked facility outside of the county where supportive services can be provided to the youth. And the court monitors the progress of the juvenile over time to see if the juvenile can return to the home."

An example of that is institutions like the Boys Republic in Chino Hills, California, that work to support troubled adolescents. It's unclear what the outcome will be for any of the juveniles in this case.

The ABC7 News I-Team reached out to the San Francisco City Attorney's Office to see if any assessment of the juveniles' homes will take place.

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