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Tulsa fathers worry for sons caught up in low-level crimes

Tulsa fathers worry for sons
Posted at 4:36 PM, Jun 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-13 23:24:08-04

TULSA, Okla. — Two Tulsa families are hoping to get laws changed for their teenage sons who've been caught up in low-level crimes.

Oklahoma's Youthful Offender Act covers crimes like murder, robbery, kidnapping and rape but doesn't carve a path for crimes like second-degree burglary or vandalism.

JT Schwendemann says he's terrified his son Hunter will take his crime spree too far one day.

"He's breaking into cars and running them into buildings," Schwedemann says. "Just constant breaking into cars and stealing stuff out of people's vehicles. The other night he threw a brick through a stack smoke shop."

He says his son and his son's friend are abusing drugs and wreaking havoc on south Tulsa neighborhoods.

"Between Yale and here off of 121st for sure," he says. "They are just going in and breaking into people's places... My phone now… every time I pick it up on the Nextdoor app, they are getting into somebody's stuff."

His app and social media posts from neighbors show recent crimes like car break-ins in neighborhoods like Sun Meadow and Camelot Park.

TJ Bennett is the father of Zack, Hunter's friend. Bennett says he and the other father have been told by police there's not much they can do at this point.

"They say we have to just sit and wait until our sons do something to get someone or themselves seriously injured or killed before something can be done," Bennett says.

"They just keep bringing them back home," Schwendemann says. "They won't hold them and they say there is no room in the facilities."

These fathers say they are desperate for the crimes to stop and for their sons to be held accountable in a safe and secure environment.

"I have been sending emails to every elected leader from our city councilor up to our elected leaders," Bennett says.

2 News Oklahoma reached out to the Tulsa Police Department to check on what could be done.

"So in Oklahoma you have something called the Youthful Offender Act," says Tulsa Police Cpt. Richard Meulenberg says. "That will categorize people that are juveniles and what crimes get treated as adults. Someone who is 16 for instance, just breaking into someone's home if nobody is there is what's called a second-degree burglary or if you break into a car or break into a house, that is not part of the Youthful Offender Act."

Juveniles not charged with one of those more serious crimes wouldn't automatically be given that youthful offender status, but there is a program Meulenberg says could apply.

"So, they have these programs now called CIC. Right? The Community Intervention Center is a program which is under Tulsa County that is this in-between."

The Community Intervention Center (CIC) serves as a 24-hour retaining facility for juveniles. It's a place where Tulsa police can drop them off and then go back to their other duties.

"So what happens for an officer is here is a juvenile that has committed this crime," Meulenberg says. "The juvenile isn't to the level of a youthful offender so what do we do with this kid? Well, we put him in this Community Intervention Center, and they work as a triage. We transport the child there and our role as police officers is done."

Meulenberg says CIC will work with the courts and parents, but more often than not the child will be evaluated and then sent home with a court date. It's up to the parents to make sure their child keeps their court date.

"Unfortunately, unless your child is adjudicated, every kid up to the age of 18 is your responsibility," Meulenberg says.

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