Douglas County Sheriff contenders share plans on tracking down juvenile offenders

Published: Jun. 22, 2021 at 4:56 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - The average daily population at the Douglas County Youth Center stood at 73 last year. Ten years ago, that number was 129.

In the last decade, a number of groups have been working to reduce the number of young people detained at the youth center. But there’s a growing concern about those who got into serious trouble, were not detained, then repeatedly broke probation and court rules, ending up with misdemeanor warrants.

Who’s looking for them? That question was raised last week during an exclusive 6 News interview.

Omaha Police Sgt. Aaron Hanson, who is considering a run for Douglas County Sheriff, believes recent examples of 16-year-olds who had been running from the law for months, only later to be accused of murder, is a reason for innovative ideas.

He suggests that if he were sheriff, he’d create a new unit to go after these 30-40 juveniles who aren’t facing felonies but have violated probation, a stop-gap to preventing an escalation of crimes. The command staff with Douglas County Sheriff’s Office says the new unit would cost more money, isn’t necessary, and the sheriff’s warrants team already tries to prioritize who is most dangerous based on best information from the county attorney and probation.

Sheriff’s investigators say they don’t have a crystal ball for knowing when a minor offender is going to escalate.

“I don’t know the background of these individuals with the murder charge, yeah sometimes they show a progression, but sometimes they jump right to it. So, try as we may to keep an eye on them as the progress through the system to see if they’re getting worse. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case,” said Capt. Richard Lally.

“We have the tools in place. What may have to happen is have better communication from all parties. But what I’m not going to do is point fingers and say this person should be doing this and that person should be doing that. That’s doesn’t get us anywhere. We’re going to communicate with probation and the county attorney’s office and figure out a system where if they feel someone should be a high priority. Don’t just let Capt. Lally and his staff figure it out, let us know the individual should be a high priority,” said Douglas County Sheriff Chief Deputy Wayne Hudson, who is also strongly considering a run for sheriff.

Sgt. Hanson has said this isn’t about pitting two departments against each other. He said he believes it’s simply a problem that requires innovative solutions.

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