Operation Game Over: Central Ohio Police target juvenile carjackers, purse snatchers

Local News

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — More than a dozen central Ohio law enforcement agencies say they are concerned about a growing trend in juvenile crime.

According to Columbus police, three clusters of juveniles – 40 in total – have been committing an increasingly alarming number of crimes, ranging from simple theft to purse snatching and carjacking.

“What they’re doing is committing a purse snatching to steal a car, they’re stealing a car to commit more crimes, more severe crimes,” said Lt. Duane Mabry with the Columbus Division of Police. “We have 40 suspects identified…our youngest is 14 and our oldest is 22. Average age is 16 years old.”

Columbus police shared videos of some of those crimes during Thursday’s press conference.

In one video, the theft takes less than thirty seconds. Two teen girls jump out of a car in broad daylight, sneak up a driveway to a running vehicle, hop in and take off.

In another video, a woman is seen putting her groceries in the back of her car in a Kroger parking lot. An SUV lingers behind her which she assumed was waiting for her parking spot when really, they were waiting for her to take her eyes off her purse.

“I grabbed my purse and he did too. And he was stronger. And then I was holding onto the car door and I was trying to get it and then he took off and I wanted to look at the license plate but they didn’t have one,” the victim told us, “I’m scared. I’m scared that someone’s going to take my stuff again. And I don’t want to go through this ever again.”

Police say there could be several reasons for the sudden and growing trend.

“Some of these kids, it’s generational. We knew their parents and arrested them when we were all young officers,” Mabry said. “Two – their own parents are scared and they’re the ones making the phone calls saying ‘that’s my kid doing that.’ And so these kids aren’t just causing havoc in the community, they’re causing havoc in their own homes and so that’s a problem and we have to do something about it as a community.

In a show of force Thursday, the chiefs of more than a dozen local police agencies stood together as they announced a unified effort to take on the growing problem.

“This is not a victory lap. This is us telling you we’re aware of the problem, the community has made us aware and we’re going to do something about it and e are doing something about it,” Mabry said.

“It’s not as difficult as it sounds to find them and track them. It’s keeping them not being our problem again on Wednesday that we dealt with last week,” said Whitehall Police Chief Mike Crispen.

Crispen is also the head of the Franklin County Chief’s association. He says it’s membership is working with prosecutors and judges to make sure the juvenile offenders get more than just a slap on the wrist.

“What is it you need from us to lock them up longer? Some of these juveniles need to not be on the street until they rehabilitate or they’re going to kill someone.”

The Franklin County Juvenile Court released a statement following the news law enforcement news conference, in response to the chiefs’ demand for harsher punishments. 

“Our communities should be weary of recent demands calling for the deleterious and
unnecessary detention of predominately African American youths and others residing in lower
income areas of the county. These propaganda efforts smack of the widely debunked “Super
Predator” myths of the 1990s. And every juvenile crime statistic available suggests that the
juvenile justice reforms implemented since that time have been more effective than the “tough
love” approach suggested by less learned stakeholders,” the court released in a statement.

You can read the court’s full response here:

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