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Kathy Szeliga

Delegate – 7a, Baltimore County

Member of House of Delegates since January 12, 2011 (representing District 7, Baltimore County & Harford County, Jan. 12, 2011, to Jan. 11, 2023; Dist. 7A, Baltimore County, since Jan. 11, 2023);

The Issues at hand

Top of mind is the fact that we can’t ignore that juvenile crime is increasing. I\’ve been hearing from school systems, the police departments, and various Marylanders that they see clear problems from HB459 Juvenile Justice Reform Bill passed last session. After a 12 year old brought a handgun to MacArthur Middle School, the Anne Arundel County Police Department released a redacted report that lists over 238 suspects under the age of 13 that cannot be charged due to the restrictions from the bill that went into effect on June 1st. I am determined to put together a new bill that will address these pressing problems because this crime is not isolated to Anne Arundel County. You may have heard about the Brawl on the Mall that took place at Towson Town Center, and a recent social media threat about a similar event planned at White Marsh Mall.

While the sponsors of the Juvenile Justice Reform bill claimed that their measure solves the problem of recidivism, I would like to argue that their efforts only compound the issue. The first and foremost duty of government is to protect the people. We must protect all of the public, but most especially children in schools. The Anne Arundel County report showcased that half of the incidents took place in schools. The suspects ranged between the ages of 4 – 12 and 30% of them were female. One case included the forcible rape by a 9 year old in a residence. The many crimes included assaults, weapons violations, intimidation, harassment, drug charges, theft, burglary, sex offenses, threats, motor vehicle thefts, animal abuse, arson, and indecent exposure. Prince George’s and Montgomery County are seeing similar upticks in juvenile crime.

When these crimes are committed, the police can only take them to the station to deescalate the situation. Then they are released to their parent or guardian and no charges are made. I am not advocating for them to be charged as adults; rather, they should be charged in the juvenile system and required to receive services as well as their parents/guardians. The opposition claims that there is a process for police to file for services under CINA; however, there is no repercussion if the parents/guardians do not comply. Nothing is holding these young people accountable, there is no meat to the bill.

What is most disappointing is that typically the victims of these aggressive behaviors are other children. I commit to protecting the public and these innocent children. By holding juvenile offenders accountable, you will in turn get them the services they need and help them to not become adult offenders by teaching them that crime is not ignored. We are not doing anyone any favors, instead we are creating adult offenders. In other words, the Juvenile Justice Reform Bill could be renamed the Drug Dealer Empowerment Bill! Isn’t this why we created a juvenile system in the first place, to tackle crime with swift and sure consequences?

Parents should no longer be afraid to send their children to school. It would be a dereliction of my duty as a public official to ignore this. As you can see, this is going to be a tough session and I hope to hear from you as these events unfold. We are always ready to speak with you and how these issues impact you directly.

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