Target 11: Leaders weighing in after only local juvenile detention center closes

PITTSBURGH — Some violent teens are being sent home, instead of being detained.

Target 11 Investigator Rick Earle first exposed this issue several months ago, and last week a violent assault downtown highlighted the problem.

“We have to have a place for those violent offenders. Because of those ones who are using weapons, as a detention center. To not have one I think is problematic and we need to take steps to be able to resolve that,” State Sen. Jay Costa, of Forest Hills, said.

Costa is calling on court administrators and Allegheny County officials to find more beds to house juvenile offenders.

It’s an issue that police have been dealing with since the closing of the Shuman Detention Center last year.

It was shut down by the county after the state revoked the license following repeated safety violations.

The county then reserved 16 beds at private facilities, but when they’re full, juveniles are sent home with their parents, often with electronic monitoring.

The Allegheny County Chiefs of Police Association raised concerns about this in a Target 11 investigation several months ago.

“We arrest someone. We’re doing our part and then we’re dealing with that same person three or four days later, maybe doing the same thing. So it’s a safety concern,” said Bruce Fromlak, president of Allegheny Co. Chiefs of Police Assoc.

And just last week, Target 11 told you about a teen arrested in a violent attack in downtown Pittsburgh.

His mother refused to take him and so did CYF, because of another arrest warrant in a separate case.

As a last resort, he was sent to Western Psych. for evaluation and then eventually transferred to a private facility when a bed became available.

“I think we have an obligation to ensure that the kids that need to be temporarily detained in the facility until they’re (at) trial or hearing, that’s important, and I think the public expects us to do that because we don’t want again these more aggressive, more violent offenders. We don’t need them to be out in the streets doing things they shouldn’t be doing, And I think there’s an expectation that the system will protect people from that,” Costa said.

The county says it’s up to the courts to come up with a solution.

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