A bill addressing the pandemic-related spike in car thefts by youth narrowly won the support of a key committee this week but its future remains uncertain.
“This is a concern in my community. That said, I would agree that more things can be done like locking our doors in our driveways,” Democratic Rep. Jillian Gilchrest, of West Hartford, said.
Gilchrest supported the bill that requires repeat youth offenders to wear a GPS device, but couldn’t say she would continue to support it.
Instead, she wants to see “opportunities for youth for afterschool programming and things to curb community violence.”
Democratic Rep. Matt Blumenthal, of Stamford, also voted in favor of the bill but was uncertain if he would support it in the future.
“We are still in a relatively low period of car theft both compared to the rest of the nation and compared to past years in the state of Connecticut,” Blumenthal said.
He said it’s also worth mentioning that almost all the cars that were stolen in his district were cars that were unlocked and contained a key fob.
Republican Rep. Rosa Rebimbas, of Naugatuck, said the youth who are committing these crimes are not just coming from the cities.
“They are suburban children,” she said.
Democratic Rep. Robyn Porter, of New Haven, said: “We have been dealing with this issue in our communities for as long as I’ve been alive and prior to that.”
Porter said it doesn’t become a problem until it gets to suburban and rural communities.
“There are Black kids, brown kids, white kids, all kids. This is childhood behavior. So it’s not a matter of just being poor kids who are committing these crimes because some of them are rich. Some of them are white,” Porter said.
Lawmakers say some of this increase has been the result of the pandemic and the lack of opportunities for youth.
State data shows auto theft-related arrests have risen 23% in 2020 compared to 2019.
“I would like to deal with the root problem because this is rooted and grounded in the pandemic,” Porter said.
The bill would require a child charged for a second time with car theft to wear a GPS monitoring device.
“We are not talking about the one joy ride,” Rebimbas said.
The bill will now go to the House.