What happens to a teen caught stealing a car in Minneapolis?

Monday, Minneapolis Police Chief Brian O'Hara questioned if the city is doing enough to hold teens accountable for criminal actions.

"We take them into custody, they're not being booked, they're being immediately released," said O'Hara. "If they're the driver, oftentimes they're given a monitoring device that we have seen several times that the kids then cut off and then continue to engage in the behavior. So without having any method of holding kids accountable, without having any support."

Tuesday, FOX 9 looked into what happens when a juvenile gets arrested for a crime.

In Minneapolis, the city used to see 200 vehicles stolen in a year. Now, it's 200 stolen a week. So why does it seem like juveniles are released so quickly?

The issue is incredibly complex. But we wondered what the first few days look like after a juvenile steals a car and gets caught. It involves a points system developed by numerous agencies that's been in place for 20 years.

In Minneapolis, the stories are endless. Kids in stolen cars. Sometimes they end in chaos, and sometimes it's much worse. Like the juveniles in a March crash that left an eleven-year-old driver severely injured, and there are others.

"I am seeing a 15-year-old girl in a coma because she was in an accident in a stolen car, an 11-year-old boy intubated in the hospital because he was joyriding in a stolen car," said O'Hara. "A 12-year-old boy was shot two different times because he was riding around in a stolen car in between running from the Minneapolis police and Hennepin County sheriff. A 14-year-old boy crashed the car and died; this is literally what's happening."

A points system decides what happens

There are numerous calls for accountability and consequences. When a juvenile is arrested, the officer decides if they meet the criteria to be brought in. If so, the intake staff does a risk assessment and assigns a certain number of points based on the offense. A youth can receive a score from 3 to 28 points. A total score of 3 to 14 will likely send youth home. A score of 15 or more means the youth is held.

The score is based on several factors. Focusing on stolen cars, that's six points. After that, age, prior cases, cases of failing to appear, and pending cases are all considered. With only a six-point offense, many of the kids in these latest cases are going home. Violent offenses are an automatic stay at the juvenile detention center (JDC).

But none of this is cut and dry. A juvenile could have stolen several cars but is never charged with the crime. So those cases aren't factored into the risk assessment evaluation, and they'll likely be released. Or after a few days at the JDC, a judge can order the release.

Space at the JDC is not an issue. There are 87 beds, and on a typical day, there are 35 juveniles held. One mom said her 11-year-old was involved in a crash a few weeks ago. Tuesday, she told FOX 9 he tried to steal a car last night and was arrested. And although she begged the JDC to keep him to face consequences, she was asked to pick him up and bring him home a short time later.

The risk assessment instrument, the JDC's points system, is reviewed and updated every so often; that was last done in 2018. It is decided by attorneys, courts, law enforcement, and more. In any case, it's all a very complex issue with a lot of gray areas.