Glens Falls Police: Group of juveniles in crime spree

By Cathy DeDe, Chronicle Managing Editor

The Glens Falls Police Department cited on its Facebook page on Wednesday, Aug. 23, “a large number of complaints of incidents that juveniles have been involved in over the last week.”

Contacted for comment, Police Chief Jarred Smith tells The Chronicle, the press release referred specifically to “three to four incidents in the city involving the same group of juveniles.”

While criminal activity among youths “ebbs and flows,” Chief Smith said, “I’ve not seen anything with this many juveniles all gathered at one place and doing it at the same time.”

The Chief confirmed what Mayor Bill Collins told The Chronicle — that the youths are 12 to 16 years old, and that the department knows who they are, “but the process takes time.”

Three incidents confirmed

Chief Smith confirmed an alleged assault incident Tuesday, Aug. 22, outside Downtown City Tavern on Elm Street.

He said “a group of juveniles were fighting amongst themselves and spilled over into the dining area. A couple of adults decided to intervene and it escalated.”

He said the case is “under full investigation, and we have video of the incident.”

Chief Smith said the alleged assault victims are cooperating with the investigation, as is Downtown City Tavern, where chairs and tables were damaged “during the fight.”

Two other assaults were reported on the same day — on Broad Street near Sully’s West, and on Maple Street near Siam Thai Sushi, Chief Smith said.

In those cases, he said, “The victims did not want to cooperate, so the investigation doesn’t go any further, which continues to embolden these juveniles.”

The Chief also confirmed drivers have been accosted on downtown streets.

“These children, juveniles, they try to take over the street. They ride in a group and take up the road, slowing traffic. The drivers behind them get understandably frustrated. They honk their horns, and then the juveniles get upset and take it out on the motorists.”

Chief Smith said they’ve also been called about “the same group of juveniles” congregating in the Park Street parking garage
As to reports items were tossed from the garage roof, the chief said, “It is possible. I’m not aware of all the calls. We are at 7,000, close to 8,000 calls so far this year. I don’t hear about every one. I hear about the bigger incidents.”

Asked about a report of a girl shot by a BB gun near 14 Hudson, the chief said, “I have not heard that.”

Chief Smith also said, “I don’t believe that is true,” when asked about third-hand reports that the department has confiscated as many as 25 BB guns or BB gun pistols from youths, or anyone.

“I haven’t seen reports of BB guns used in these incidents,” Chief Smith said.

He said he was not aware of an assault said to have happened near the Domino’s Pizza. A widely viewed photo on Facebook showed a man’s bloodied face.

As to reported bicycle thefts, the chief said, “In 17 years as an officer, bicycle larcenies are nothing new. The biggest thing I recommend is to get a bicycle lock.”

He said he was not aware of more reported incidents involving the youths since the press release was issued.

‘Report what you see’

To the public, Chief Smith urged, “If you see something happen, call us. Like with any other crime that you are victim to, or witness, call. If you are a victim you have to cooperate, file the supporting deposition, and see the process through.

“The police department is fully investigating these cases,” he said. “We appreciate the cooperation from victims and people calling when they see something happening.”

He said the incidents tend to happen in evenings and on weekends.

He said, “We are increasing patrols. We are being out there, being visual and having a presence.”

To report a crime in Glens Falls, call 518-761-3840.

Juveniles & the ‘Raise the Age’ law

Social media buzzes with comments and allegations. Chief Smith said, “People see these incidents happen. They are upset because they are not seeing (the offenders) getting handcuffed and put in the back of a police car. In many cases, anyway, they take off running. The police need to conduct their investigation.”

The public is “not seeing the juveniles dragged to the station, so they think nothing is being done.”

Two things thwart or slow prosecution, Chief Smith tells The Chronicle.

He said the crimes must be reported and victims willing to make statements “and see it through.”

Second, New York State’s “Raise the Age” legislation, enacted in 2017 and fully implemented in 2019, raised from 16 to 18 the age at which a youth can be criminally charged — “depending on the crime.”

“Now everything has to go to Family Court, working with Probation to determine the outcome,” said Chief Smith

“The object was to keep these kids out of adult jails, and prevent them from having a permanent record that sticks with them forever,” he said.

“Officers are frustrated for sure,” said the chief, but he adds “I believe the original theory behind Raise the Age was appropriate. Unfortunately, when laws are made, no one can tell how it’s going to affect things. The concern is that there are no real consequences to juveniles that are committing crimes.”

The chief said, “The process holds them accountable, but it’s a long-term process, and does the consequence correct the action? That’s what’s frustrating.” He said with more cooperation from victims, “they would get into Family Court sooner.”

The police cannot release names of alleged perpetrators or the status or outcomes of the cases, “even if an arrest is made,” the Department said in its press release, “due to the suspects in most of these cases being juveniles.”

Parents or guardians can be charged, Chief Smith said, “and we are pursuing that.” Charges can be filed “for failure to exercise control of a minor.”

Chief Smith said once the matter goes to Family Court, the department is no longer involved, “unless we are called to testify,” and they don’t necessarily even learn the outcome.

Board of Public Safety, Sept. 13

The Glens Falls Board of Public Safety meets next on Wednesday, Sept. 13, at 4 p.m. in the Mayor’s Conference Room at City Hall. Board members besides Mayor Collins are Tambrie Alden, Barry Cronkhite, Scarlett DeWitt, John Jenkins, Michael Seidel and Robert Stedman.

Mayor: Glens Falls remains ‘safest city’; police ‘know who they are dealing with’

Glens Falls Mayor Bill Collins, who also chairs the city’s Board of Public Safety, told The Chronicle, “There are a group of kids fighting with themselves and other people, committing assaults and crimes.

“The Police are on the case and investigating. I can tell you, this is Glens Falls. It’s a small city. (The police) know who they are dealing with.”

He said, “I meet with the (police) chief weekly. We have met no less than twice about this.”

The Mayor said he could not speak on the record about ongoing investigations, but he said specific actions are being taken on several of the widely talked about events. “People need to trust their Police Department,” he said.

Asked if the City might convene a meeting with the public, the Mayor said, “There’s no conversation to have. What we need: Tell us when crimes are happening or groups of anybody are creating mayhem. Tell us right away.”

To reports by some people that they were told by officers “our hands are tied,” Mayor Collins said, “It’s simply not true. We stop them. It’s more involved with a young person. It’s not that their hands are tied but it does change what the police can do.”

“We were named the safest city in the country,” Mayor Collins said, “and it is still the safest city in the country. We know who the perpetrators are and we are addressing it with them.”

— Cathy DeDe

Business owners, first-hand views from the front line

“There’s definitely been an increase in juvenile delinquent activity, absolutely, and it seems to be the same group of kids,” said Journey Kerchner-Pirrone, General Manager and CFO of Downtown Hospitality Group, which operates Downtown City Tavern and Downtown Social.

“It seems to be the same group of kids. For the last two months it’s been gradually escalating, and in the last two weeks it’s been seriously escalating.”

Mr. Kerchner-Pirrone said, “The police have always been quick to respond,” to calls for incidents at both restaurants.

“We also have good cameras, and we often can provide video to the police or to other businesses. Every business should invest in video cameras.”

Ben Miller who co-owns the building housing Park & Elm Restaurant and upper story apartments, one of which he lives in, says of the juveniles, “I see them in the parking garage almost every day,”

“I have seen them painting graffiti, and throwing things from the top level.”

He says he’s called the police — and noted several times when the youths escaped, running from the opposite entrance as police entered.

Mr. Miller said the restaurant and their Park Theater have seen minor vandalization this summer, but he could not say whether it was by youths or others.

Downtown building owner and Realtor Mark Levack said he discovered two windows damaged by BB gunshots, one a plate-glass window. He said he could not determine exactly when or by whom the damage was done.

“I’m a concerned downtown property owner whose property has been vandalized and I would like to know, what’s the data on these incidents and are they escalating?”

“People want to blame the police, but I believe their hands are tied by state laws,” he said. — Cathy DeDe

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