Crime should fit time for juveniles

When do you know a crime is serious?

  • Tuesday, June 9, 2009 3:39am
  • Opinion



When do you know a crime is serious?

When it is seriously punished. A convict doing life without parole obviously did something more serious than someone doing 90 days in county lockup.

So with that in mind, is it a serious crime if a juvenile is caught with a firearm on the streets?

Every politician holding any office in either party will insist that yes, of course it’s a serious offense for a 15-year old to be packing a .357.

But how does the law punish him?

Here’s a quick quiz: If a 15-year old is caught after midnight on the streets with a handgun in his waistband, he can serve as little as:

A. A single day in juvenile detention.

B. A week.

C. 30 days.

D. None of the above.

Answer: D. According to King County Executive Dan Satterberg, he is eligible for no detention time at all.

And if he’s caught again?

The answer is the same. Not until his fourth conviction would tougher standards kick in – tough, that is, by juvenile justice standards. He’d still only do two to three months.

Satterberg says the message on the streets is clear: “We’re saying if we catch them with a gun and they haven’t used it yet, it’s no big deal.”

Should it be? Satterberg thinks so. It would take a simple change in state law to make it happen. But “simple” doesn’t mean “easy.” There is a built-in lobby against any tougher treatment of criminal activity, period, and that lobby has the advantage of state finances being stretched so thin that many criminals are getting their sentences reduced.

But there is also precedent for getting tougher. Back in 1995, the state’s voters qualified the “Hard Time for Armed Crime” initiative, which soon became law (disclosure time: I co-authored the measure and chaired the campaign for its passage). It was written to add more time for any offender who illegally used, possessed or obtained a firearm. It has worked well, but the law amended only the adult sentencing grid. The juvenile code remained the same.

With bullets flying all over King County, now would be a good time to change it. Seattle’s mayor has repeatedly insisted that the state should forbid law-abiding people from carrying concealed weapons on city property, including parks. Aren’t Glock toting punks in street gangs a greater threat to public safety? And yet, not a single word from Mayor Nickels about tougher penalties for armed juvenile thugs. How come?

If Seattle’s mayor won’t act, and the legislature and Governor don’t act, then this issue is a fastball down the middle for Attorney general Rob McKenna. We’re not talking about a quality of life issue here. This is an issue of life and death. The body count is real. And the cost of doing nothing means the count will continue to rise.

More in Opinion

Even with postage paid, voters couldn’t send ballots on time

While those ballots don’t get counted, taxpayers still must pay the Postal Service for delivering them.

Spotting outsiders in our little city

There’s always a way to tell who’s new and who’s ‘in-the-know’ in Enumclaw.

We must move away from identity politics

Mr. Trump recognized the legitimate concerns of the “working class” and socio-economic middle class which have born a disproportionate negative impact from many of Washington’s policies.

Polarizing politics works to squash the moderate middle

The definition of identity politics: “Political attitudes or positions that focus on… Continue reading

Enumclaw VFW cites long list of community service

Our post, although one of the smallest in the state, consistently ranks near the top of all state VFW posts in the amount of community service we provide.

A victory they didn’t want means a fight they worked to avoid

De-Escalate Washington needs to restart the machinery of a campaign to pass I-940.

Windows over Cole Street

Some of you have probably seen me early in the afternoon sitting in storefront windows of The Local Coffee House or Ann’s Bakery or, my favorite perch, the corner windows in Jackson’s.

Deeply held religious beliefs do good in the world

It is truly disheartening to see the eagerness with which people jump on the bandwagon to Christian bash.

Economy rises and falls, regardless of who’s in the Oval Office

History from the time of Harry Truman teaches us that presidents have very little influence on the economy.

Most Read