What is the mayor doing about stolen cars?

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Despite the violent crime on the evening of the Fourth of July, the crisis that impacts every corner of our community is still stolen cars. There were 2,350 in the city alone. Last week the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office said there were in excess of 2,200 in the county.

Almost every email, phone call and Facebook post we get asks what’s the mayor doing about it?

There are thousands of families who have had to deal with the fear, pain and frustration of a stolen car and we wanted to know if the mayor feels their pain.

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Chief Investigative Reporter Berkeley Brean: “Do you know somebody whose had their car stolen?”

Mayor Malik Evans: “I do. I know several individuals who have had their car stolen.”

Brean: “What did you say to them?”

Mayor: “What I said to them was, number one, I’m sorry this happened to you, but I was also feeling the anger they felt.”

The mayor says the crime turns a family’s life upside down.

“So one person in particular had their kid’s basketball uniform and school supplies in the car,” Mayor Evans said. “So they had to figure out – how do I get my son a new uniform? How do I get to work?”

Typically, if police arrest a teenager in a stolen car, the system makes them write a ticket and release them (If police have evidence that one of the teenagers actually stole the car and didn’t just possess stolen property and used a weapon, the charges are more serious and the teenager can be held in the Children’s Detention Center in Rush).

But last month, the county revealed a new strategy where if a teenager is caught they are supposed to be contacted by a county probation officer within 24 hours. Then they’re supervised and connected to counseling or a job before their first court appearance, which can be up to two weeks from the time of their arrest.

Brean: “And is that working?”

Mayor: “We believe it’s working right now because we see a decrease in the numbers.”

The mayor says of the 54 teenagers in the probation strategy, only two have been re-arrested. At the peak in May, there were 82 stolen cars a week in the city. In June it dropped to 69.

Brean: “You believe the stolen car crisis is a symptom of a bigger problem. What do you mean by that?”

Mayor: “I’ll give you an example. Two weeks ago we had an individual who was 13 or 14 years old in a stolen car, who we arrested at 2:45 in the morning. I have a 12-year-old. I know where my 12-year-old is at all times. These are young kids that should be at home that are doing that. So we have to ask ourselves – what’s going on in the household? Where has the system broken down to allow a 12, 13, 14-year-old to be out at night at 2:45 in the morning driving a stolen car?”

Brean: “Lots of people want to hold the parents accountable. Where do you come down on holding the parents accountable?”

Mayor: “Well I think we have to hold the entire community accountable. However, you have to ask – how is a parent supervising a 12 or 13-year-old?”

Brean: “But should they get in trouble for that?”

Mayor: “I don’t know how that would work from a legal perspective on how to get a wayward child in trouble. And I would put myself in the position of a parent that might have a child that they might not be able to control. Should they be responsible for all that? I don’t know. But I do think a parent has an obligation to come forward if they have a child that is out of control to seek help, to get help.”

Brean: “The Monroe County Sheriff’s office has asked for a special detention center, to be able to detain teens caught in stolen cars. Do you support that?

Mayor: “If we can find a facility to rehabilitate kids, I’m all supportive of being able to do that. But the most important part is – what do you do in the short term because something like that is going to take a year or two to do.”

Mayor: “One of the ways we have to try to continue to drive their problem down is to continue to work with our Family Court system. Because too many kids are going into the Family Court system, and us that are on the outside have no idea on how they’re being reformed. And we need assurances, the community needs assurances that these young people are being turned around.”

I told the story to the mayor of what I witnessed as I went to the Red Wings game Tuesday night.

I saw two boys and a girl looking in the windows of several Hyundais parked in the MCC parking lot.

When it was clear that they weren’t going to the game, I alerted a police officer who was doing traffic control on Plymouth Avenue. The officer immediately got on his radio.

Brean: “And the overwhelming feeling I had at the game was – is my car going to be there when it’s over?

And I think a lot of people have that concern every single day.

Mayor: “And I think the concern with the cars is that, number one, it’s done so quickly and it’s done by unsuspecting kids that you would never suspect. And I think that is a challenge.”

Brean: “This crisis is across the county. It’s not just in the city.”

Mayor: “It’s all over.”

Brean: “I think what people want to hear from their mayor is that you feel their pain.”

Mayor: “Not only do I feel their pain, I can identify with it because, like I said, people close to me have had their cars stolen or vandalized, and even when they get them back, there is still that sense of violation.”