Barrington police chief: Parents hold the real power
The four teenagers who allegedly broke into a Cherry Lane home late last month, drank the homeowners' beer and watched movies while they were supposed to be in class at Barrington High School, could face punishments of community service work, restitution payments to the victims and have to write letters of apology.
But chances are, said Barrington Police Chief John LaCross, that a better deterrent to future teenager crimes will come from those kids' parents rather than the state court system or the town's juvenile hearing board.
The longtime law enforcement official said he's learned that a strong parental message is far more resounding than the promise of punishment by the state.
"The court system is good, but parents can do more," he said.
He said he was surprised to learn of the Cherry Lane incident so soon after 13 Barrington teenagers were arrested for partying inside a Fireside Drive home this summer. “I would hope that an incident of that magnitude (it garnered national media attention) would have had a lot of parents engaging in conversations with their children about how that behavior would never be tolerated,” he said, in a prior interview.
Chief LaCross said the incident on Cherry Lane was slightly different than the Fireside Drive situation. At the Fireside Drive residence, the homeowners' son had given a friend permission to use the home's indoor pool. At Cherry Lane, the four teens involved allegedly broke into the home without any permission.
Chief LaCross said at least two of the teens arrested had prior arrest records and therefore will face Family Court proceedings as opposed to the more lenient town juvenile hearing board.
"The juvenile hearing board is for first-time offenders only," he said.
Chief LaCross said he's interested in exploring a new style of punishment for cases like the Cherry Lane break-in. It's called restorative justice, he said, and it brings all the parties involved in an incident together to further discuss the matter.
For example, in the case of the recent home break-in, the teens arrested, the victims, the police officers and a professional mediator would all gather in a room. Each individual would talk about what happened, why, and how it affected him or her.
The chief said the process, which is already being used in some towns in Massachusetts, can be very powerful and have profound affects on the alleged suspects.
Chief LaCross credited town councilor Kate Weymouth for initially suggesting the approach.
"It's a good exchange between the victim and offender," said the chief.