The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

The Deadly Menace of Feral Youth

Posted on | May 23, 2023 | Comments Off on The Deadly Menace of Feral Youth

On Sunday, police in Baltimore County, Maryland, wore black mourning bands on their badges to mark the five-year anniversary of the death of one of their own. Officer Amy Caprio was responding to a 911 call of a burglary in progress west of U.S. Highway 1 near Perry Hall when she confronted the driver of a stolen Jeep, who ran over her — a death captured on the officer’s bodycam video. Her death highlighted the problems in a juvenile justice system that endangers public safety by failing to incarcerate repeat offenders.

Dawnta Harris

The criminal behind the wheel of the stolen Jeep was 16-year-old Dawnta Harris, who had a long history with the Department of Juvenile Services:

  • December 29, 2017 – Dawnta Harris is charged as a juvenile for Auto Theft and related felonies in Baltimore City. Released to mother pending trial.
  • January 14, 2018 – Harris charged as a juvenile for Auto Theft in Baltimore City. Placed on Electronic Monitoring by DJS until court hearing the next day.
  • January 15, 2018 – Baltimore City Juvenile Court removes Electronic Monitoring requirement and releases Harris to his mother.
  • February 18, 2018 – Harris charged as a juvenile for Auto Theft and related felonies in Baltimore City, placed by court on Electronic Monitoring in the community.
  • February 26, 2018 – Harris goes into AWOL status from Electronic Monitoring.
  • March 2, 2018 – An adjudication hearing is held with Harris present. Baltimore City Juvenile Court sustained one Auto Theft charge from December 29, 2017 arrest, dismisses all charges from January 14, 2018 and February 18, 2018 arrests. Court orders youth placed into non-secure shelter facility in Montgomery County and into Community Detention/Electronic Monitoring.
  • March 13, 2018 – DJS is notified of Harris’ arrest regarding possible involvement in car theft in Montgomery County. Harris is returned from the shelter in Montgomery County and brought to Baltimore City Juvenile Justice Center for secure detention.
  • March 14, 2018 – Placement hearing held for Harris in Baltimore City Juvenile Court. Based on a standardized public safety risk assessment score, DJS recommends day and evening reporting and Community Detention/Electronic Monitoring. Court releases Harris from Baltimore City Juvenile Justice Center and sends him to a non-secure shelter in Catonsville.
  • March 20, 2018 – Harris is charged as a juvenile for Auto Theft in Montgomery County that occurred on March 12, 2018. DJS intake in Montgomery County sends Auto Theft charge to State’s Attorney for formal processing.
  • March 29, 2018 – Baltimore City Juvenile Court holds disposition (sentencing) hearing. Disposition was continued to April 16, 2018. Court continued Harris in the structured shelter but released him from Community Detention/Electronic Monitoring.
  • April 16, 2018 – Harris fails to appear for disposition hearing at Baltimore City Juvenile Court. Court issues writ so that Harris can be apprehended by police and brought in.
  • April 17, 2018 – Harris arrested and detained on writ. Court holds detention hearing where DJS recommends, due to public safety risk, that Harris be securely detained at Baltimore City Juvenile Justice Center. Court orders the secure placement and schedules a detention review for May 10, 2018.
  • May 10, 2018 – Court holds detention review hearing, which does not include DJS participation. Court releases Harris from detention and places him on Community Detention/Electronic Monitoring where he is required to engage in a day and evening reporting center.
  • May 10 to May 13, 2018 – DJS maintains contact with Harris while he is on Community Detention/Electronic Monitoring.
  • May 14 to May 16, 2018 – Harris goes into AWOL status. DJS makes multiple attempts to re-engage Harris via cell phone and visits to his home. DJS workers remain in regular contact with Harris’ mother, who states she does not know where he is. DJS workers meet with Harris and his mother on May 15 to discuss behavior and non-compliance.
  • May 17, 2018 – DJS Director of Community Detention directs that the community detention violation be referred to juvenile court. DJS confers with Harris’ mother, who agrees to be present the following day for a court hearing
  • May 18, 2018 – Baltimore City Juvenile Court holds hearing with Harris’ mother, DJS workers, State’s Attorney, and Public Defender present. Harris was on AWOL status and not present at hearing. Court did not make a detention decision due to questions raised by the public defender regarding whether Harris had proper notice and continued the matter to Tuesday, May 22, 2018.

That hearing was scheduled for a Tuesday — but on Monday afternoon, Dawnta Harris and three accomplices were out committing burglaries, which is when Dawnta killed Officer Caprio. So instead of going to a hearing for violating terms of his release from the juvenile system, Dawnta found himself charged as an adult with murder and facing District Court Judge Sally Chester, who denied bond and put him in a grown-up jail, telling the teenager’s lawyer: “In the last six months, no offense, but your client is a one-man crime wave. I’m not certain any juvenile facility is secure enough to hold him.”

Here’s a couple of facts about the case to keep in mind: First, the suburban neighborhood where Harris and his accomplices were burglarizing homes was 20 miles away from the Gilmor Homes housing project in West Baltimore where Harris lived. Second, among the items they stole that day was a 9mm pistol. These facts are important, because liberals love to lecture us about “non-violent crimes.” Auto theft and burglary? “Non-violent crimes,” the liberals yell, as if it were wrong to put people in jail for such offenses. But what if it was your car that was stolen? What if it was your house that was burglarized? Would you feel that these were trivial crimes and that the perpetrators shouldn’t be prosecuted? And, by the way, how do criminals get guns?

Oh, that’s right — criminals steal guns! The rampage of violent crimes in America’s inner cities? Stolen guns are fueling that deadly trend. And where are these guns being stolen from? Well, the case that led to Officer Caprio’s death shows one way this happens — criminals steal cars and drive to the suburbs to steal guns. If auto theft is not itself a violent crime, it is certainly a crime related to violence. For example, when gangbangers want to do a drive-by shooting? Yeah, steal a car to do it.

The trend of leniency toward juvenile offenders is a significant factor in the surge of crime we have witnessed in recent years. If minors who commit serious crimes — and grand theft auto is a serious crime — are given a slap on the wrist and returned to the streets, where is the deterrence? Do juveniles have to commit murder before they finally do real time behind bars? In the case of Dawnta Hall, not only was he sentenced to life in prison for killing Officer Caprio, but his three accomplices in the burglary spree also got sent to prison.

Leniency is not to be confused with mercy. If the juvenile justice system had kept Dawnta Harris behind bars — and they had multiple opportunities to do so — not only would Officer Caprio still be alive, but Harris’ codefendants wouldn’t have been convicted of felony murder for their role in Officer Caprio’s death. So, yeah, go ahead liberals, and congratulate yourselves for doing your part to advance the cause of “social justice.” All it cost was a dead cop and four boys going to prison.




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