Rockland Police say the spray-painting of racial slurs on buildings and cars is the latest in a long line of juvenile issues plaguing the city.

Is There a Big Problem With Juvenile Crime in Rockland?

Interim Deputy Chief Gaylor detailed some of the issues dealt with by his department in recent weeks, all involving juveniles as young as 11 years old. This has been an ongoing problem in the city, with Gaylor stating that in the past two years, Rockland Police have issued over 75 juvenile criminal and civil charges, with over 40 of those occurring in the last six months. Those offenses have included thefts, alcohol violations, assaults, drug trafficking, curfew violations, criminal trespassing, criminal mischief, assaults on police officers, and sexual assaults on other minors. Most of the criminal charges were garnered by the same small number of juveniles. It's become a constant source of frustration and stress for the officers, as they try to deal with the issues while keeping the city safe.

What Types of Crimes Are They Committing?

Some of the most recent offenses include:

On February 10th, Patrol Officers intercepted a group of juveniles as they walked into Hannaford at approximately 9:30 p.m. One of the young people had been given a 'no trespassing' order from the store and was charged with stealing alcohol less than three weeks prior. As the Officers told the group to leave, Gaylor says the juveniles were yelling vulgarities, giving them the middle finger, and threatening to fight the officers and store staff. Criminal charges are pending and requests for arrest warrants are being sought.

On February 14th, Police received complaints from both the Recreation Center and then the Rockland Public Library about a group of around 8 juveniles who were being disorderly. At least one of the juveniles had been issued a prior trespass warning for the Recreation Center on Limerock Street. Officers tried to talk to the young people, who then walked away while yelling vulgarities at the officers and onlookers, including what Gaylor called 'homophobic and racist speech.' He says there were families with young children in the area, at the time so police opted not to engage further with the group because they feared a physical fight, with too many innocent bystanders in the area. Police were able to separate one of the juveniles, who has an upcoming court date and issue a criminal summons to him. At that point, the juvenile tore up the summons and walked away. Police are seeking arrest warrants for several of the juveniles involved in this incident.

On February 16th, the disruptions escalated to vandalism, with police receiving several reports of swastikas, and homophobic and racial slurs being painted on public and private buildings, as well as RSU-13 property, and on several vehicles that were parked just off Main Street. Rockland Police were able to identify several of the juveniles involved, saying that one of them was as young as 11. Criminal charges are forthcoming in this case.

What Do Rockland Police Have to Say About the Issue?

Gaylor said in a Facebook post that lawmakers are tying the hands of law enforcement, where juvenile crimes are concerned.

The system is patting itself on the back for keeping juveniles out of secure juvenile facilities while turning a blind eye to the fact that by doing so, they are not only ignoring public safety and the quality of life of our citizens but also doing nothing to help these juveniles.

He says police don't want to send kids to the Long Creek Youth Development Center in Portland, but would rather get them some help and heal whatever trauma got them to this point. The goal is not to lock them away but to help them to see the error of their ways and help them move on to have productive lives.

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