Challenges for juvenile system on display as teen moved to adult court in stolen car case

MILWAUKEE -- A teenager involved in a police chase that ended in a crash learned on Friday, Feb. 2 his case will move into adult court. Prosecutors said given the teen's past arrests in stolen car cases and his response to those run-ins, it was appropriate to move his case to adult court. Both they and the judge said the real complicating factor is time.

Greenfield police chased a stolen car last September down Forest Home Avenue. After speeds topped 100 mph, the car crashed into the back of a squad. A passenger in that car, who police say had fentanyl in his pocket, was in juvenile court on Friday.

Greenfield Assistant Police Chief David Patrick

"They're not just out joyriding, they're committing crime sprees," said Greenfield Assistant Police Chief David Patrick.

Greenfield police say before 2013, they averaged nine chases per year. In 2017, they had 101.

"The majority of them are juvenile suspects like in this case here," Patrick said.

The 17-year-old suspect, who FOX6 News is not identifying because of his age, was there to learn if his case would move into adult court. His probation officer said he should instead go to MCAP (Milwaukee County Accountability Program) -- a five or six-month stay in the local youth detention center.

"He's never been placed outside of the home, aside from being in detention. If he's in MCAP, he's away from the community for that period of time getting some consistent services," said Yolanda Bush, the teen's probation officer.

Prosecutors played a Facebook Live video in court on Friday. The teen is in a stolen car flashing a handgun. It happened before the Greenfield chase but after previous stolen car arrests. They say it shows the teen is not getting the message, saying the teen has been referred to juvenile court 11 times since 2016, resulting in six different charges. The bigger problem, officials say, is juvenile statutes -- once he turns 18, a suspect is out of the system. In this case, the teen turns 18 in November, leaving just a couple of months for supervision after his release from juvenile detention.

"He's shown us that this amount of time we've had -- a year-and-a-half -- hasn't worked," said the prosecutor, Joy Hammond.

Judge Joe Donald

The judge said that is the deciding factor.

"It's the problem when he is out and the peer group he is associated with. So in my opinion, the fact there isn't a sufficient amount of time to ensure that he could correct his behavior while out in the community," said Judge Joe Donald.

Juveniles who are sentenced as adults can be kept on supervision past their 18th birthday. However, that is only if they are moved into adult court. Some within the juvenile justice system have said that is what needs to change -- more flexibility on the juvenile side.