Chicago car hijackings increase by increasingly younger offenders, but no deterrent programs allowed

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CHICAGO (WLS) – Raising 11 kids in one of Chicago’s most violent neighborhoods is undoubtedly a challenge for Tamara Fenton, but she never thought her 16-year-old would find her way there. She was devastated when her ninth child was charged with car theft downtown.

“My daughter said she was just standing on the sidewalk, but when it all came out she was supposed to take one up with a gun up to his neck and asked for the keys,” Fenton said.

According to a Better Government Association survey, car hijackings have skyrocketed in 2020 and early 2021. While only 13% of incidents resulted in arrests, most of those arrested were under the age of 18, a significant number of barely 13 years old.

“At least 30% of those arrested in the past year are first offenders, which is a worrying number for those with knowledge of the crime data,” said Sidnee King, BGA investigative reporter.

King said many of the first offenders have fallen into violence after the pandemic cut off some of their lifelines, such as school ,. After their arrests, they were returned to their quarters under home surveillance.

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

She fears her child and others will reoffend if not detained and undergo surgery

Because carjackings are a violent crime, Cook County Juvenile Court judges told the BGA they did not have the ability to place first-time arrestees in programs for the first time. intervention designed for non-violent offenders.

“The problem is that the juvenile court does not have the relationship or the infrastructure to refer these children,” King said.

King hopes his investigation will result in more resources for first-time offender intervention programs. Fenton too

“They let all these kids go through the day and they get younger and younger,” she said.

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