Chicago carjacking surge driven by young offenders, but no deterrence programs allowed

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Raising 11 children in one of Chicago's most violent neighborhoods has no doubt been a challenge for Tamara Fenton, but she never thought her 16-year-old daughter would get caught up in it. She was devastated when her ninth child was charged with a downtown carjacking.

"My daughter stated she just standing on sidewalk, but when everything came out that she was supposed to walk up to one with a gun up to the neck and demanded the keys," Fenton said.

According to a Better Government Association investigation, carjackings skyrocketed in 2020 and the beginning of 2021. While only 13% of the incidents resulted in arrests, most caught were younger than 18, a significant number as young as 13.

"At least 30% of those arrested within the last year are first time offenders, which was a concerning number with those familiar with crime data," said Sidnee King, BGA investigative reporter.

King said many of the first time offenders fell into violence after the pandemic cut some of their lifelines, like school, off. After their arrests, they were sent back to their neighborhoods on home monitoring.

"There should be programs like mentors or something like that they should offer the family, but nothing was offered to us," Fenton said.

She fears her child and others will offend again if not detained and given some type of intervention

Because carjackings are violent crimes, Cook County Juvenile Court Judges told the BGA they don't have the option of placing first time arrestees in intervention programs designed for non-violent offenders

"The issue is the juvenile court does not have a relationship or the infrastructure to refer these kids," said King.

King is hoping her investigation will result in more resources for first time offender intervention programs. So does Fenton

"They letting all these kids go by the day and they are getting younger and younger," she said.
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