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More juvenile crime costs county

Susan Cunningham

A growing expense for the Routt County Sheriff’s Office points to a growing problem: increases in juvenile crime.

Routt County Sheriff John Warner said a steep increase in juvenile crime, or crimes committed by people who are younger than 18 years old, has been most apparent in the increased funds spent transporting juveniles to juvenile holding facilities.

Under federal law, a juvenile cannot be housed under the same roof as an adult inmate, so juveniles who are arrested have to be transported to juvenile holding facilities in Craig or Grand Junction.

Because there is only one bed at the Craig facility, nine times out of ten, juvenile offenders are taken to Grand Junction, a travel expense that tops hundreds of dollars in time, gas and other expenses, Warner said.

The trip requires two trained deputies, four hours of driving and 30 gallons of gas each way.

Safety is also a concern, especially when deer and elk are on the road or when weather is poor.

Many times, a juvenile is taken to Grand Junction for a day, picked up within 24 hours for a hearing and then returned to Grand Junction.

“It’s a huge, huge expense to taxpayers,” he said.

Although Warner could not quickly find a specific number, he said that the county has seen a “definite increase” in the number juveniles it is transporting to Grand Junction.

The county transports juvenile offenders from across the country as well as from incorporated areas such as Steamboat Springs, Hayden and Oak Creek.

The issue of increased juvenile crime is something that areas across the state and nation are facing, Warner said. It’s been discussed at statewide sheriffs’ conferences and more.

The bottom line, in Warner’s opinion, is that it’s a problem law enforcement officers can’t fix. Rather, solutions should fall to the responsibility of parents.

“Law enforcement can only be reactive. Parents need to be proactive,” Warner said. “It’s frustrating all sheriffs and chiefs alike that by the time we get involved, it’s too late.”

— To reach Susan Cunningham, call 871-4203 or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com


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