Forums address juvenile retail theft in Macon County

Forums address juvenile retail theft in Macon County

DECATUR — Retail theft committed by juveniles has become too prevalent in the community to ignore.

This issue led the Macon County Juvenile Justice Council to host the first of three forums on Friday addressing the top juvenile offenses occurring in the county, starting with retail theft.

“It is clear that the No. 1 reason juveniles are being arrested is for theft,” council coordinator Alida Graham said to about 25 local officials, organization leaders, law enforcement individuals and social services representatives.

Of some 800 juvenile arrests in 2014, theft topped the list with 181 offenses, according to data from the Macon County Sheriff’s Office and Decatur Police Department. Within that scope, retail theft accounted for more than half of theft offenses, totaling 96 arrests.

Demographically, 69 percent of the juveniles were black and 31 percent white. Ages 16-17 made up 51 percent of the arrests. The bulk of thefts occurred at Von Maur, Kohl’s and the north Walmart.

Of the arrests, 28 cases were prosecuted and mostly resulted in supervision or probation for the individual, said Macon County State’s Attorney Jay Scott, who also serves as chairman for the council. He added that juveniles are not normally sent to a detention center on retail theft charges.

Jackie Bullard, a member of the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission, said the further juveniles are pushed into the correctional system, the more likely their recidivism.

“I think in some ways, we’ve lost our way with how we deal with children,” she said. “If you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”