ROCKFORD (WIFR) – Teenagers, some of them not even old enough to legally drive, are taking our cars from our driveways and parking lots. It's not a new problem, but there is a new solution.
The Winnebago County State's Attorney's Office is taking a harder approach, now charging some teens as adults.
"We want to make sure that we're using every deterrent available to us. We're not going to allow juveniles to terrorize our community," Winnebago County State’s Attorney Joe Bruscato said.
As police continue to arrest teens they're getting help in the courtroom, keeping kids locked up longer.
"We've seen it recently where yes we did lock them up, you catch them the night before then they turn around and they're right back out the next day and it just kind of defeats the purpose," Rockford Police Lt. Eric Bruno, said.
Just last week the Winnebago County State's Attorney's Office charged a teen accused of stealing a car as an adult.
"We all want to see our youth grow up to be productive citizens, but they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law to create the deterrent to make our community a better place," State’s Attorney Bruscato said.
This year alone Rockford Police say teens stole 61 cars, of those, 17 arrests were made, including a 16 year old caught late Sunday night. They say he didn't have a license when he stole a car from the Planet Fitness on South Alpine, and was caught near Napoleon and North Main Street.
Investigators hope this hard approach against teens also makes us feel safer.
"In the public's eye it’s really quite simple, it’s a black and white issue, they did it so they should be punished for it,” Lt. Bruno explained.