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Marysville looks for tougher sanctions for juvenile vandals

MARYSVILLE As this city tries to get tough on graffiti and vandals, they are trying to bring the courts along. And thats not going to be easy.
While everyone in town wants to throw the book at em a probation officer from the Snohomish County courts said there are limits to what a judge can do with juveniles caught for vandalism.
While state law allows sentences of up to 150 hours of community service for young offenders, the bench in Snohomish County has opted for local sanctions of no more than 24 hours for most offenses. Local sanctions are voluntary limits self-imposed by judges to ensure fairness and equity in sentences, according to Joseph Parenteau, who spoke to the citys graffiti task force meeting on Feb. 15.
The task force was convened last year by the Marysville Police Department to involve the wider community to help stop a rash of vandalism to city parks, schools and businesses. One of the task forces recommendations has been to have offenders clean up their damage and while thats possible, Parenteau said in some cases you want to keep them away from their victims.
Generally in a victim case, we dont want them to have contact with them, Parenteau said. He suggested having offenders clean up or repair another victims damage instead.
The county has several options for young offenders, including a diversion program that includes counseling and restitution. Unfortunately theres not adequate funding and it usually relies on a convicts parents to have insurance to pay.
Members of the task force have also wanted to find a way to make parents pay for the damage their children inflict. That can be considerable, as a 12-year-old Marysville boy was recently arrested for causing more than $15,000 damage to a neighbors house and car. His seven- and 11-year-old brothers were not charged, as they were simply too young, according to Marysville Interim Police Chief John Turner.
Nothing is based on the parents, its all based on the kid, Parenteau said. He acknowledged that most of the time a parent picks up the bill, but there is no legal weight to force them to do so through the criminal courts. On the civil side parents can be held liable for a maximum of $5,000, and that would include Bill Gatess kid, Parenteau added.
In the case of a $30,000 judgment, the victim could get a lien that lasts until the offender turns 18, and that can then be extended for 10 year terms that can be renewed until the judgment is fulfilled. The city is supposed to be receiving $20 monthly payments for an arson that occurred years ago, sparked by a juvenile who couldnt pay, and, to this day, doesnt.
Craig Wells is the owner of the Marysville Laundry Station who deals with lots of graffiti and vandalism due to the proximity of his business to the Marysville Skate Park. He asked Parenteau about getting the courts to exempt graffiti and vandalism offenses from the local sanction limits. Thats not going to happen, he was told.
Its got to be across the board, Parenteau said. You cant just single out individual crimes.
One option is local Community Accountability Boards, quasi-judicial panels where local laypeople supervise youths under 18 convicted of crimes such as shoplifting, assault and other misdemeanors. They meet twice a month and can assign community service to offenders.
Its not enough of a deterrent, said Mike Robinson, maintenance manager for the Marysville Parks and Recreation Department who has caught several vandals himself. We get kids who get eight to 16 hours and they just blow through it. They dont care.
Turner said that graffiti is a mushrooming problem in Marysville and asked if there was a way the city could talk to the courts. The Marysville courts do not handle juveniles, those are hauled before the Snohomish County system. He noted that taggers as young as seven years of age can eventually get involved in gang activity.
Marysville city attorney Grant Weed said county prosecutor Janis Ellis has begun monthly meetings with city attorneys and prosecutors.
This would be a subject that would be appropriate to share, Weed said.
Turner and school resource officer Bronwyn Kieland said the graffiti they are seeing is gang related and could lead to more serious problems, noting that one of three Everett gangs did a drive by shooting recently.
We may not see the drive-bys here, but they are coming, said Kieland, citing gang Web sites with pictures of teens holding guns including AK-47s. She said there are three active gangs in Marysville.
More and more are popping up, they are just going by different names, Kieland added.

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