As carjackings in Chicago continue to spike, juveniles’ share of arrests for the brazen crime has risen sharply as well, the Chicago Tribune reports. Through May 20, those under 18 accounted for about 6 of every 10 arrests, up from about 35 percent for all of 2016. Because so few carjackings end in arrests — only about 9.5 percent of the 2018 cases — it’s difficult to know how large a percentage of the overall problem juveniles make up. Juveniles’ role in a crime that can happen anywhere in Chicago — a judge was carjacked last week in the popular Greektown restaurant area — has drawn increasing criticism for how the court system handles these young offenders. A Tribune analysis of Cook County juvenile court records from a recent four-year period found that about a third of the minors arrested by Chicago police for carjackings ended up facing less serious charges such as car theft or even lesser offenses.
As a result of a state law change that took effect in 2016, a carjacking charge no longer triggers for those under 18 an automatic transfer to adult court, where the consequences are often far more severe. Police suggest it’s no coincidence that 2016 is the year carjackings spiked in Chicago. That was also the same year that shootings and killings hit levels unseen for two decades. “The kids have become enlightened to the consequences,” said Judge Michael Toomin, who presides over the county’s juvenile justice system.
Carjackings continue at high levels in Chicago. While the numbers have fallen 6 percent this year, they remain far above the levels of just a few years ago. Carjackings can lead to lengthy prison time for adults. By contrast, many minors convicted of carjacking face probation or, for those with longer criminal histories, a few months in a state prison for juveniles.