Over the Thanksgiving weekend, a juvenile was arrested five different times in Blair County by the Altoona Police Department.
Blair County District Attorney Pete Weeks says their office was denied requests to detain the juvenile until days later on the following Monday.
Weeks is speaking out, saying this is just one example of why the Blair County juvenile justice system needs reformed.
“For someone to have that much law enforcement contact in a period of three or four days, and for us as law enforcement not to have the ability to remove them even temporarily from society to ensure everyone’s safety is extremely disturbing to me,”
Blair County court has not had access to a juvenile detention center since 2006, according to Weeks.
“Simply put, what that means is, if you are under the age of 18, and you commit a crime that the District Attorney’s Office cannot direct file or charge you as an adult the system in Blair County is not going to detain you,”
16 years later, Weeks says their juvenile justice system is not adequately protecting the community.
He’s calling on county officials to either form or contract with a place where juveniles can be detained.
“I think we need to sit down and take a hard look at getting a facility, or a contract with a facility, to detain the small number of juveniles that need detention,”
“When we consistently and repeatedly do not detain them, to me, it creates a huge community safety risk,”
Weeks is asking the judges involved with juvenile court and the Blair County Commissioners to make a plan to address this issue.
When we have those types of offenses occurring, or individuals who the police have to deal with every day or every other day in the community, there needs to be a resource to remove those individuals, attempt to rehabilitate them, but in a confined space where they can’t harm members of the community,”
Weeks says while beds for troubled juveniles are lacking across the nation, he says that’s no excuse for Blair County.