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Juvenile offenders becoming more violent

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ST. IGNATIUS — Perhaps the most disturbing trend Barbara Monaco has seen over the past 30 years is youthful offenders becoming more violent. Monaco, who is the chief juvenile probation officer for Lake and Sanders Counties, addressed the St. Ignatius Neighborhood Watch group Tuesday, Aug. 18. 

The choice of weapon on the reservation is the knife and many youths carry them, she said. She is also concerned about the resurgence of meth use.

Monaco and her three deputies, when she is at full staff, deal with the full gamut of crimes. Situations range from tragic to mundane, but she said she never loses the emotional connection.

“If I lost that (connection) I shouldn’t be there, but sometimes you have to hide it,” she said. She said there are emotional rewards as well. She described instances where former youths she had dealt with contacted her years later to thank her for setting them on a better path.

“There is no typical day in my office. You never know what is going to turn up. Most often, the matter is dealt with then and there under the stipulations of the Youth Court Act,” Monaco said. “Nine times out of ten, when they are asked if they committed the offense, they admit to it.”

Then, unless it is a sex crime or other serious crime that must be referred to the county attorney, Monaco’s office can set the sentence.

“There are a lot of things they may have to do,” she said. “That may include apologies, probation and restitution. You try not to make them have a formal record. Kids make mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. You try to give them the tools to get out of the system and become adults. You look at their history, you look at their families, you look at the whole situation.”

Monaco said they hold the youths accountable.

“But if their parents haven’t taught them respect, they shouldn’t expect us to. One thing that gripes me is parents and/or attorneys whose primary concern is getting the kid off without really dealing with the problem.” 

Some juveniles, depending on their age and the seriousness of the offense, can be tried as an adult. Those cases are forwarded to the county attorney’s office with a recommendation. Juveniles who are tribal members are referred to the tribe for prosecution but sometimes, especially in cases of serious offenses, tribal judges refer them back to Monaco’s office.

A couple of persons attending the meeting described offenses they see happening in the St. Ignatius area. Monaco and St. Ignatius Chief of Police Matthew Connelly encouraged those people to get a good description of the offenders and their vehicles, if vehicles are involved, and call the county sheriff’s dispatch office.

They also reminded those present that all of the towns and cities in the county, the county itself and the tribe all have curfews that are uniform. The curfew for all minors in Lake County is 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and midnight to 6 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Violators may be fined up to $75 or be sentenced to up to 10 hours of community service or both. Often when curfew violations are involved, other violations are also discovered, Monaco said.

The St. Ignatius Area Neighborhood Watch meets every third Tuesday of the month in the St. Ignatius Senior Citizens Center on North Main Street at 7 p.m. usually, someone involved in public service talks to the group. All members of the public, not just those within the town limits, are encouraged to attend and get involved. For more information, contact chapter president Mack McConnell by calling 406-745-4151.

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