Arrow-right Camera

News

‘Throwaway’ Teens Trouble Small Town Springdale Officials Frustrated By Crime Spree

Fri., Oct. 4, 1996, midnight

It may take a village to raise a child, but Springdale Marshal Bob Lind doesn’t think it should.

Lind is frustrated by a rash of crime by about a half-dozen juveniles in black bandannas and athletic clothing. In addition to recent vandalism, a town councilman was attacked with rocks and another man was threatened with a pellet pistol.

“I call them throwaways because mom and dad don’t want anything to do with them, and so they just send them to town,” Lind said. “But the village shouldn’t have to raise them.”

The village can’t afford to raise them, he added.

“We don’t have the money here to provide the programs to put these kids in a better environment.”

Efforts to deal with just one boy probably will break his budget, he said.

Declining to discuss the case specifically, he said the boy can’t be released to his family and Stevens County won’t handle the case. So the town is paying about $100 a day to keep the boy in detention.

Lind estimated the bill will come to $3,000, but his jail budget for the entire year is only $2,000.

The town pays in other ways, too. When new sidewalks were poured last week and again on Monday as part of a street project, juveniles quickly defaced almost every panel of the wet concrete with bicycle tracks and obscene messages. Lind said the mother of one of the boys told him, “everybody else is doing it and it’s their town.”

Last Thursday, Lind said he arrested a 13-year-old boy for threatening a man with a pellet gun that looked like a semiautomatic pistol. He said the boy put the gun to the head of a chimney sweep who was filling out a bill in his truck and said, “Give me all your money.”

The man escaped by punching the accelerator and speeding away, Lind said.

Later the same day, the boy and some of his friends were pointing the gun at each other in front of the grocery store downtown, Lind said. “They were playing good guy, bad guy for everybody to see.”

Lind confiscated the gun, but suspects some of the same kids were responsible for shooting several windows out of the Head Start preschool building over the weekend.

Then, on Monday, youths threw rocks at a town councilman after he talked with a deputy sheriff - while the deputy was still in the vicinity, Lind said. “They have no regard for any kind of authority.”

As Lind spoke about the problem, a woman came to his office to complain that someone had broken the windows out of her new mobile home before she could move into it.

“It’s just a losing battle,” Councilman Floyd Pope said. “These kids can swear at you and do all kinds of things … but I don’t know how we can do anything as a council.”

Pope said the council is considering “putting some teeth in a curfew” but has few other options.

Springdale’s problem doesn’t involve students at the town’s junior and senior high schools, Lind and high school principal Gary Coe agreed.

“I really feel good about our kids,” Coe said, “but, yes, there are some problem kids.”

Most don’t live in Springdale, according to Councilman Steve Gluth.

He and his wife, Colleen, said youths have rained rocks on the roof of the day-care center she operates.

“We are all banging our head because it seems like the system doesn’t work, and all of these kids know what the rules are - which is no rules,” Gluth said.

Increasingly hostile youths have caused several cities in northeastern Washington to adopt or consider juvenile curfews in the past couple of years, including Spokane.

Lack of any juvenile detention cells in Stevens County contributes to the problem there. All but the most violent juveniles are released pending trial.

“I arrest them and take them up north (to the courthouse in Colville) and they fingerprint them and take all of the information and then they let them out on recognizance,” Lind complained. “There’s no place to put them and they get home before you do and laugh at you.”

A plan to build three short-term juvenile holding cells in a new 911 emergency dispatching center might solve the problem, but the project is on hold because of money problems. And a regional detention center at Medical Lake won’t open for another year, Lind noted.

He said he is still “frosted” that a 15-year-old boy got only 30 days of detention - the maximum allowed by the state juvenile code - for burning down the town hall on July 1.

Lind thinks Stevens County prosecutors should have fought to try the boy as an adult, as Lincoln County prosecutors did when a 17-year-old burned the Lincoln County Courthouse last December.

He also thinks state law should make it easier to bring juveniles into adult court. Parents should be legally responsible for all, not just part, of the property damage their children cause, he added.

Meanwhile, Lind said Springdale is doing what it can by trying to organize a neighborhood watch program.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 Photos (1 Color)



Click here to comment on this story »