Pierce County Deputy Sheriff: Little to no consequences for teen crime

Jan 20, 2023, 2:32 PM
youth crime...
The Pierce County Sheriff's Office is dealing with an uptick in youth crime. (Photo courtesy of Pierce County Sheriff's Department/Facebook)
(Photo courtesy of Pierce County Sheriff's Department/Facebook)

One Pierce County law enforcement official said the region is seeing an uptick in teen crime partly because there are little to no consequences for committing criminal acts.

Appearing on the Gee & Ursula Show on KIRO Newsradio, Pierce County Deputy Sheriff Darren Moss explained that many teens are not held for very long after committing a crime. “One of the things that are really affecting us is that once we get them in custody, we just have to let them go. And we’re seeing multiple offenses by the same kids too. And that gets concerning.”

Moss said he didn’t have a good answer for why teen suspects are being caught and released. “I just know that they changed the way they book people into juvenile hall. And they’re not taking the kids for all the crimes we used to put them in for in the past. Even when they go to court, sometimes they’re getting put on a curfew via our curfew probation. They would have to be home at a certain time every night.”

He explained it’s hard for police to deal with that. “But the biggest thing is trying to figure out how we can get kids to stop doing these crimes because the stolen cars are just one thing,” he said.

Getting kids to stop committing crimes is a complex issue

Pierce County put out a guide for parents to try to keep teens out of the system. Among the recommendations: Know who your child is hanging out with and encourage them to participate in clubs and after-school programs.

“I think the biggest problem for us is not just the stolen cars, it’s the violent crime with kids,” Moss continued. “What they all realize is, yeah, maybe you just stole a car. But when you get into a shooting, or you’re getting shot at, or you’re doing robberies with your buddies, you guys are putting yourselves on the line that a lot of these kids 15 and 16 are getting charged as adults, and that’s going to ruin the rest of their life.”

Teens, including 13-year-old, lead Bellevue police on stolen car chase

Moss said more serious crimes are being committed by young teenagers.

“It seems like every day I see from our department or other departments in the region where we have between even 13 or 12-year-olds up to 18 to 19-year-olds committing some of the most horrendous crimes,” he said. “But last weekend, we had three armed robberies, all involving juveniles. The first robbery was with a gun and they were in a stolen car. The second robbery was with a taser, and they were in a stolen car. And a third robbery was an attempted carjacking trying to steal a car, and pepper sprayed a 71-year-old woman. All of them were described as young teenagers.”

Moss couldn’t pinpoint a reason for increasing teen crime. He explained that it could be something to do with COVID and being out of school. Moss also hypothesized PTSD from COVID or depression. He said it could also be a lack of guidance at home or the financial crisis.

The need to examine why teen crime is happening

“One of the things we’re going to have to really address as a community is what’s going on with our youth because there’s something that is going on,” Moss explained.

Moss said it might also be that teens are hanging out with kids who are trying to convince them they can get away with a crime.

“It doesn’t matter whether you can get away with it or not. Why even risk it? There’s so much more that they have to look forward to in their future. Doing these things are going to ruin any chances they have at being successful moving forward.”

Moss would like to see more done to help keep youth off the streets.

“I think we need to let people know it’s not okay to run from the police.”

Listen to Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Pierce County Deputy Sheriff: Little to no consequences for teen crime