TV-6 Investigates: Scott County juvenile court and car thefts

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DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) - Many of the kids accused of stealing cars in the Quad Cities do not spend time behind bars. The juvenile justice system is designed to rehabilitate, not punish. But, some of the kids who are let out re-offend.

The head of the Scott County juvenile prosecution division said car thefts are not new to the Quad Cities. Instead it's the number of new kids coming into the juvenile justice system that's causing problems.

Assistant Scott County Attorney Dion Trowers said, "I think there's a big push on social media where kids are bragging about it, and I think that's why more and more kids are doing it."

Trowers has tried juvenile car theft cases for years. He's not sure why kids do this, but he has heard a common theme emerge in juvenile trials.

"Just when these kids are pleading, they're just, they are saying they are just looking for something to steal," said Trowers.

He said the juvenile court tries to fix the kids underlying behavior. But with suspects skewing so young, there are limited options. The state places limits on who can be sent to the state training school. And the juvenile justice system tries to keep young first time offenders out of detention altogether.

"You're exposing them to kids that have more of a criminal history, criminal background," said Trowers.

He said that leniency can be abused. Trowers said some children who've been released pending trial are, "Re-offending because they haven't actually started the process of rehabilitation at this point."

Scott County data show 21 children re-offended out of the 69 cases filed since January 2016.

When asked if the system is working Trowers said, "I think so, I hope so."

We don't yet know what types of punishments these kids are getting. State law prevents the public from accessing nearly all juvenile court records. But we have asked the Scott County Juvenile Court System for statistics showing what kinds of punishments judges are handing out. We'll report on that when we get the data.

16 and 17 year olds can be waived to adult court. Trowers said his staff are automatically filing those waivers on all these car theft cases. Once filed, a judge needs to approve the move.