DA says gang leaders use teens to commit crimes; facing lesser sentencing
BATON ROUGE- 18th Judicial District Attorney Tony Clayton told members of the Rotary Club that both sides of the river face a major gang problem.
"Now these are 12, 15, 16 year-olds. They got more guns than my cops," Clayton said as he showed the crowd a video, which he says is from Plaquemine and shows a gang.
He pointed out the firepower on the screen and said there was a problem.
"There are certain entities in our government that are scared to call them gangs for whatever repercussions they think," Detective Aubrey St. Angelo from the Iberville Parish Sheriff's office said, "They label themselves as gangs."
He says all of the people involved are minors under the age of 18.
"If you are 17-years-old, and you arm yourself with a weapon and unjustifiably suck the life out of another human being, I got something for you. You need to go to prison," Clayton said.
The DA and other members of local law enforcement made a case for repealing the so-called raise-the-age law that keeps 17-year-olds from being tried as adults. They say that the law is a problem.
A bill to reverse the law is making its way through the state capitol.
According to Clayton, there is a lack of beds in juvenile jails in this area. He says it costs hundreds of dollars a day to send troubled teens to out-of-state detention centers. He adds that the only other option is to send them back to the streets, where they return to a life of crime.
"They're putting foil paper on the ankle bracelets, where you can't read them, so the ankle bracelets don't work," Clayton said.
Another issue, Clayton says older criminals are using juveniles to help them commit crimes because of the current law.
"If the main drug dealer wants to out a sale of fentanyl, use a 16 -17-year-old, cause he'll only have three years. They'll give his parents 50-100 thousand dollars. He'll only have three years in juvenile. We made a mistake when we lowered the age," Clayton said.
Clayton says the solution is making 17-year-olds adults in the eyes of the court system once again. The bill is headed to the Senate floor next. If approved, it will then go to the House Criminal Justice committee.
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