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Police investigating string of purse, car thefts by juveniles across central Ohio

The Columbus Division of Police said juveniles are stealing purses off of women who are alone and then stealing their vehicles.

A group of law enforcement agencies in central Ohio came together Thursday to address what they say is a growing problem: juveniles committing robberies and car thefts.

The Columbus Division of Police said juveniles are stealing purses off of women who are typically alone and then stealing their vehicles.

Police said a large majority of these stolen cars were found to have been used in additional crimes and these crimes have increased in violence since December 2020.

“It makes me sad. It also annoys me at the same time. It's just sad that these are going on,” Halle said.

Halle was grocery shopping for a friend who had COVID back in December when a kid jumped out and stole her purse.

“This kid, juvenile, jumped out of the car. You see him hesitate, then I grabbed my purse and he did too. He was stronger and then I was holding onto the car door. Then he took off,” Halle explained. 

The suspect is just one of about 40 juveniles in three different groups police say is going around central Ohio committing these crimes.

“Some of you already saw it on the news, it was aired on the news, specifically over in Whitehall where we arrested one of these juveniles who believes for various reasons that as he said in his words, ‘we own this society,’” Whitehall Police Chief Mike Crispen. 

Columbus police alone are investigating 141 crimes with over 500 felony crimes. Now they are joining forces with surrounding agencies.

“Our victims, almost exclusively female, alone, a lot of elderly,” Columbus Police Commander Duane Mabry said.

Law enforcement leaders say they are making arrests but the problem is the juvenile suspects are released immediately, only to re-offend.

“We lock them up, and before we get back to the station and finish the paperwork, they are back out victimizing people. That is a major, major problem,” Crispen explained.

When asked what law enforcement can do to make sure the suspects aren’t being arrested and released repeatedly, Mabry responded, “We are going to sit at the table with whoever we need to, to keep our communities safe. That includes the judges, that includes the prosecutors.”

Law enforcement leaders worry the crimes will continue escalating if the suspects aren't stopped now.

“If we can do something now, maybe we can save one of these kids’ lives or save someone in our community's lives from these kids,” Mabry said. 

On Thursday Columbus Police Commander Duane Mabry said, “We are going to sit at the table with whoever we need to, to keep our communities safe. That includes the judges, that includes the prosecutors.”

The Franklin County Juvenile Court Judges responded to the operation, which has led to more than 130 delinquency charges pending in Franklin County Juvenile Court.

The judges signed a lengthy letter that said in part, “Our communities should be weary of recent demands calling for the deleterious and unnecessary detention of predominately African American youths and others residing in lower income areas of the county."

"Every juvenile crime statistic available suggests that the juvenile justice reforms implemented since that time have been more effective than the “tough love” approach suggested by less learned stakeholders," the judges wrote.

The letter continued to say the judges will continue to engage its community partners to address delinquent behavior in the youth of our community while producing fair, equitable and just results for the communities we serve.