BEAVER COUNTY, Pa. — In Beaver County, District Attorney Dave Lozier said they’ve seen a dramatic increase in serious juvenile crimes since the pandemic. That includes car thefts, gun violations, aggravated assault and armed robberies.
“Because juveniles were at home unsupervised they lost support structures there are often economic and family issues coming out of covid,” said Dave Lozier, a Beaver County District Attorney.
Since the Shuman Center in Allegheny County closed down in 2021, Lozier said there’s only one juvenile detention center that’s available to all 17 counties in western Pennsylvania. It’s in Mercer County with just 11 beds.
According to the Pennsylvania Secure Detention Bed Gap Analysis, in Southwestern Pa alone on average 54 juvenile beds are needed daily but none are available.
“We have a juvenile detention crisis in Western PA with juveniles committing violence offenses or repeat felonies but we have no place to detain them,” said Lozier.
Lozier said a federal law changed in January where a juvenile can no longer be detained in an adult jail unless they are charged as an adult.
So once a juvenile is taken into custody, he said the county has six hours to find a place for them. They call several facilities from central PA to central Ohio and most of the time Lozier said nothing is available.
Lozier said as a result, police have to release the juvenile back to their family, and with no immediate consequence, he said they will likely re-offend.
So local leaders are working on a solution to this major issue.
“What we are doing right now is the Beaver County police chief are meeting with county commissioners and our juvenile services division, we are looking at either building a juvenile facility in Beaver County repurposing the building or talking to the other counties of Southwest Pennsylvania to build a regional facility,” said Lozier, “It’s not a Beaver County problem, it’s an all of Pennsylvania problem.”
The DA said he plans to meet with county commissioners, local police chiefs and the juvenile services division next week to discuss this matter further and talk about next steps.
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