NY sheriff says juveniles are competing to see who can steal the most guns

AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

While New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and Democrats in Albany have been busy trying to criminalize legal gun ownership, law enforcement officers across the state have had their hands full combatting a rise in crime involving suspects too young to lawfully possess or purchase a firearm. In New York City, robbery arrests involving juveniles have spiked by 80% in 2023, while juvenile arrests for assault have climbed 23% compared to last year.

The problem isn’t limited solely to the Big Apple either. In Oswego County, just north of Syracuse, the local sheriff says he’s seeing a disturbing trend: more juveniles engaged in theft rings that are targeting everything from cars to guns.. and in some cases, both.

Last weekend a group of juveniles in a stolen car hit two different gun stores in the county, in one case getting away with more than a dozen firearms in less than a minute.

A group of youths burglarized a gun shop in Oswego County in a stolen car before hitting another gun shop in Elbridge, the sheriff said Tuesday.

In all, they stole 21 guns, Onondaga County Sheriff Toby Shelley said at a news conference Tuesday.

The group went to a gun shop that is connected to a house in Oswego County on Friday, Shelley said. The kids grabbed 14 handguns, but dropped eight of them, he said.

The next day, the same group hit Tim’s Guns & Shooting Supplies in Elbridge. They managed to get into a window and a glass case holding the guns, he said.

They made off with 12 handguns and three rifles in 52 seconds, Shelley said.

They returned the next day to the shop and stole ammunition, Shelley said. Some were arrested afterward, he said. Shelley did not provide specifics on the number of kids arrested or their ages.

Shelley said the gun thefts are part of a trend where youths are breaking into businesses or stealing vehicles.

Groups of youths are competing against each other in these thefts, said Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Jesse Welch. They’re between the ages of 11 to 17, Shelley said.

“They’re comparing vehicles that they have stolen,” Welch said. “Guns seems to be the ultimate goal and prize among these groups.”

The kids try to one-up each other, he said.

From Aug. 1 to Aug 23, a total of 216 cars were stolen or attempted to be stolen in the county, Shelley said. Year to date 1,070 vehicles have been stolen in the county and 50% of those are Kia or Hyundai vehicles, Shelley said. Authorities at the news conference did not say how many of those cars stolen were taken by kids.

Smoke shops are also being targeted, Welch said. Since mid-June 40 smoke shops outside of the city of Syracuse have been burglarized, Shelley said.

The kids are stealing tobacco products and sometimes reselling them or using them, Welch said.

One of the reasons for the increase in juvenile crime, according to former NYPD official Kevin O’Connor, is the state’s “Raise the Age” law, which was approved by the state legislature and signed by then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2018. Under the terms of the statute, the vast majority of juvenile offenders cannot be charged as adults for their crimes, and even those accused of violent offenses are ending up back on the street instead of in custody.

“This is Raise the Age on steroids,” O’Connor said. “These kids have no repercussions. They get arrested and released, arrested and released.”

Juvenile crimes aren’t tracked because Family Court documents are sealed and there isn’t anywhere to put the juveniles so they get out and commit more crimes, he noted.

“So within 10 hours even if they’re remanded by a judge,” he said, “they’re released because there’s nowhere to put them.”

One recent, and disturbing, example is the 14-year-old who allegedly randomly punched a French tourist in Midtown on May 6.

The NYPD’s Manhattan Warrant Squad arrested George Luna on Wednesday — and realized he was also wanted for allegedly shooting a 79-year-old man in the hip near 124th Street and Second Avenue May 13, according to court documents and a law enforcement source.

Prosecutors requested $30,000 bail and $90,000 bond, but the judge granted $10,000 cash and $20,000 bond.

Officials wouldn’t specify what happened to the teen because of his age.

“They probably let him go with his parents,” the police source said.

New York lawmakers have been trying to turn lawful gun owners into criminals while taking a soft approach to those who are actually responsible for the lion’s share of violent crime in the state, and the problem is even worse when we’re talking about non-violent offenses like car thefts or even burglaries to gun stores. As O’Conner told the New York Post back in May, “We’re prosecuting 16 and 17-year-olds with kid gloves. The judge only looks at the kid for what the kid’s in front of him for. He’s not looking at the kid’s history. That’s because of Raise the Age.”

It’s crazy to think that a 45-year-old concealed carry holder could face more time in prison for accidentally bringing her pistol to a “gun-free zone” like a church or a city bus than a 15-year-old would get for breaking into a gun shop and running out with a dozen or more firearms, but that’s where things stand in the Empire State at the moment. And while the courts will hopefully end up providing some relief for New York gun owners, there’s not much that can be done about the rot within the juvenile justice system until New Yorkers themselves decide to make a change and vote out the Democrats giving criminals a pass and gun owners the middle finger.