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Wethersfield crash re-ignites debate over juvenile justice reform

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WETHERSFIELD — Police chiefs, prosecutors, and state judicial officials are having another dialogue over the juvenile justice system after another high-profile incident involving a stolen SUV, allegedly taken by teens.

Wethersfield police are still searching for three teenagers believed to have been driving a stolen car that was caught on dashcam ramming into another car at an intersection.

The crash happened Sunday evening around 5:30 p.m. in front of a shopping plaza on the Silas Dean Highway.

"The "at fault" car was stolen out of South Windsor. The three teens took off after the accident apparently uninjured. The "non at fault" car was occupied by a family of three who were all injured and were taken to the hospital.

"I think it awakens people, one is how fast accidents occur how dangerous these intersections are even though they're completely controlled," said Police Chief James Cetran after the department posted the video to Facebook. "You can't trust what other people are going to do."

The incident is one in a number of high-profile cases in which teens, through reckless driving, and/or motor vehicle theft, caused injury or loss of life.

Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane wrote an op-ed in the Hartford Courant in August criticizing the system as it stands now.

“The kids realize that they're not going to be held accountable in juvenile court and that the ability to provide secured facilities for these youngsters while they're growing up is nonexistent,” said Kane.

Chief Cetran voiced frustration over how often he says he sees teens involved in car theft.

“We've caught kids with ankle bracelets and then they're out there again.”

Cetran feels the juvenile justice system isn’t tough enough on kids to deter them from future criminal behavior.

“They're not likely to be punished very severely if they're caught which is amazing to me because they run so hard. Their pursuits are, you can't pursue them, because they drive like maniacs.”

Supporters of current laws argue Connecticut is seeing a statistical decrease in the prison population as well as juvenile-related crimes, therefore a few high-profile cases aren’t indicative of a larger problem.

“We do know that there's fewer arrests, fewer arrests of young people, juvenile, or adults, there's fewer kids coming into the system every year, all of that indicates that the problem isn't getting worse but it's getting better,” said Mike Lawlor, Undersecretary for Criminal Justice Affairs.

Police say car theft is more common than it should be because it is a preventable crime.

"Lock your cars," said Cetran. "We've been professing that for I can't tell you how long, yet there are still on a nightly basis because cars are being broken into and stolen because they're unlocked or the fob or the keys are in the car or nearby."

The teens are still on the loose. Anyone with any information is asked to contact Wethersfield Police.

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