HAMILTON: What New Marijuana are NYS Lawmakers Smoking Increasing Age of Delinquency?

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By: Ken Hamilton

Last week, in a meeting dedicated to finding solutions of how to reduce the crime in the city of Niagara Falls, community activist Gloria Dolson rose above the shoulders of Norma Higgs, community activist and the former assistant to NYS Supreme Court Justice Jacquelyn Koshian to take the microphone at the former Sacred Heart RC Church/now-True Bethel Niagara Church. Speaking specifically to Niagara Falls Police Superintendent Thomas Licata and Niagara County District Attorney Caroline Wojtaszek, Dolson gave her ideas about where to place patrols around the city that she thought would do the most good. Licata explained that the placement of patrols at the various times of day is premised upon what statistical data says, and based upon past histories. Not fully satisfied with the answer, Dolson sat down. 

Though not present at the church, hostelier Jeffery Flach was less concerned as to ‘where’ the cops loitered on patrol, he said, “I want more effective policing. I want [criminals] found, arrested, prosecuted, and off the streets. I don’t want excuses and I definitely don’t want police acting like they can’t be bothered or can’t do anything because they don’t have cars, or the law protects the criminals.”

Dolson, the leader of the LaSalle Education Club, a group that raises money and sponsors scholarships to high school students, has a much softer view of what some may identify as the criminal element in Niagara Falls and how they should be treated by the criminal justice system than does former US Army officer Flach. He was speaking in terms of the state legislature passing a law that raises the age of juvenile delinquency from 16 to 17, compelling the officer to process the suspect much the same as a professional fisherman would do when he catches fish in a contest, measure his age (somehow), and then release him or her back onto the streets because of their age. As Seneca Niagara Resort and Casino employee Scott Marsh put it, “The problem is that they are arrested and released the same day and arrested again.”

Little wonder that the cops are spent and not as anxious to aggressively make futile arrests.

This all points to the statistics about which Licata spoke to Dolson.  In many cases, the youth are that small percentage of residents who are, or who are about to become, the chronic problem and is the relatively small number of repeat offenders who rack up the greatest volume of arrests. If 14 is the prime age that youngsters hit the streets to commit crimes, due to age impunity, then increasing the age of impunity creates the potential of increasing the problem by 25%.

But where Dolson and Flach might agree is in the area of the treatment of youth while in the hands of the police.  Flach’s opinion is that the penalties and the sentencing of young criminals should be different than those of an adult, “… but not at all okay with releasing criminals that [the police] caught, I don’t care what their ages [are]. We know adults prey on children for all sorts of reasons and this is a great way to have a gang leader recruit a child army because they are beyond the law.”

I agree with Flach on that one. Having lost a boy to gunfire who looked much older than his 14-years, though nearly 30-years ago, the pain of that loss still resonates inside of me. But even at 14, the boy was much smarter and more informed than we were at their age.

Nonetheless, I have to set my personal pain aside and understand the needs of society.  Simple math would indicate that in doing nothing more than raising the age of delinquency, one only raises the number of exempted delinquents.  Subsequently, it all raises the amount of crime and increases the number of patrols in areas where Dolson and others believe that they need to be.

Worse yet, adding the legalization of marijuana to the equation of increased ages of delinquency only increases the number of juvenile delinquents. What would be the teens’ incentive not to smoke dope and then dopily be a criminal? Studies in Colorado show that marijuana impacts the brain development of youth; therefore the youth would naturally comprehend a reduction of the risk of permanent legal consequences for anything that they do. Then they will do anything!

So then, what do rational adults do to reduce the crime around them? They move elsewhere, as they are doing in droves.


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