SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) – The viral video seen across the nation of an 8-year-old Syracuse boy being put in the back of a Syracuse Police cruiser after he stole a bag of chips is sparking a deeper conversation about youth crime in the city.

According to a recent Syracuse Police report obtained by NewsChannel 9, the department arrested a total of 378 children in 2021.

Comparatively speaking, the number of juvenile service calls SPD has received so far this year is higher than where they were in April 2021.

To date, Syracuse Police officers have already responded to 127 calls involving juveniles this year. At this time last April, SPD responded to 86 juvenile calls.

In 2021, Syracuse Police arrested…

  • 270 juvenile delinquents (208 males, 62 females)
  • 17 juvenile offenders (15 males, 2 females)
  • 91 adolescent offenders (79 males, 12 females)

A “juvenile delinquent” is a child who is at least 7-years-old but under the age of 18 who commits a crime. Syracuse Police say criminal cases against juvenile delinquents are decided in family court and juvenile delinquents do not go to jail.

Instead, the court decides if they need supervision, treatment or if they need placement through the local department of social services or the New York State Office of Children and Family Services. The criminal record is sealed, but can be seen by police and prosecutors.

A “juvenile offender” is a child who is 13, 14 or 15-years-old and commits a serious felony or other violent act. These cases are decided in the youth part of the supreme or county court, but the case can be transferred to family court in certain scenarios.

If convicted, juvenile offenders can be punished like adults. Their records are not sealed unless the case is sent to family court.

An “adolescent offender” us a 16 or 17-year-old who commits a felony after October 1, 2019. This means the case is heard in the youth part of the supreme or county court.

These cases may also be transferred to family court. If so, the child will then be treated as a juvenile delinquent.

In Monday’s Syracuse Common Council Public Safety Committee meeting, Sgt. Mark Rusin and Chief Joe Cecile addressed city lawmakers about the department’s response policy involving children.

Sgt. Rusin said when juveniles are arrested, most are brought back to their parents and given an appearance ticket, which was the exact case for the 8-year-old boy who first stole a bag of chips and then stole another child’s bike just days after the initial incident.

“Keep in mind, these officers did exactly that,” Chief Joe Cecile explained. “They didn’t take this child to jail, as was indicated in the viral video. They didn’t handcuff him. They put him in the car and took him home, straight home to his father and then talked to the father for 10 to 15 minutes in the street.”

To continue addressing youth violence and crime in the city, Chief Cecile said his department needs to continue building upon the Syracuse Police Athletic League (PAL) working to strengthen community relations between officers and children.

“We’re already doing some things, but there are obviously more things we can do.”

Chief Joe Cecile, Syracuse Police Department

“To be able to drive up to a child, hopefully when they’re not committing a crime, hopefully when they’re just playing in their yard playing ball or something to have that officer having that connection, there is nothing more powerful than that,” Chief Cecile explained.

Syracuse Police has only one youth enforcement detective who works out of the department’s criminal investigations division.

After a juvenile arrest is made, her responsibility is to put together the case paperwork that is then sent over to the Onondaga County Probation Department for further review.

Chief Cecile said having only one youth enforcement detective is staffing issue and big task given the amount of recent youth crimes SPD is responding to.

Another priority for Chief Cecile and SPD is getting school resource officers back in the city’s middle schools. School resource officer are currently only in the high schools due to the department’s low staffing numbers.