Anytime a crime was committed the last few days, quipsters have wondered if a 9-year-old boy is responsible.

The juvenile accused of stealing two cars has received a lot of attention this week, both in Grand Island and around the state.

So anytime something goes wrong, especially involving a juvenile, Grand Island residents ask if the 9-year-old is again on the loose.

Early Thursday evening, several law enforcement officers dealt with a juvenile in the parking lot of The Independent. The officers, both from Grand Island police and the Hall County Sheriff’s Department, made sure the juvenile was securely restrained.

Hall County Chief Deputy Jim Castleberry said to his knowledge, that youth was not the 9-year-old who’s been getting all the attention.

Capt. Jim Duering of the Grand Island Police Department said any police activity involving the 9-year-old since Tuesday night has been non-criminal. “Legally I cannot share non-criminal juvenile information. It’s all protected,” Duering said Friday.

“What I do know is that we’ve been working with other agencies, trying to resolve this situation with our 9-year-old,” Duering said. “I think we’ve made some headway. We’re on the right track. There’s no immediate solutions, but I think we’re on the right track.”

That activity is non-criminal, so Duering can’t talk about it.

If police helped Social Services with a youth who was causing problems, Duering said, it would be an agency assist, and non-criminal.

Duering understands that people have a lot of interest in the young suspect.

“They’re going to have to understand that we are dealing with a 9-year-old boy, and he has a right to privacy under law as a juvenile,” Duering said. “So that’s where we’re going to leave it.”

An individual has to be at least 11 years old before a criminal complaint can be filed against him, says Hall County Attorney Marty Klein.

A juvenile petition, rather than a criminal complaint, is often filed against kids who are 11 or 12, Klein said.

“If a child under age 11 commits an act that would be considered a crime, the county attorney cannot file a juvenile delinquency case,” says a statement from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services

For those youths, if a court case is initiated, the county attorney’s office has to file a juvenile petition under what’s called a (3)(a) filing, which refers to Nebraska statute 43-247(3)(a). That passage is called the abuse/neglect subdivision, “although obviously that’s not necessarily how we would categorize this 9-year-old who’s been driving around Grand Island,” Klein said.

When a (3)(a) petition is filed, “The court would have the authority to place the child in DHHS custody, if deemed appropriate,” says the statement from DHHS.

A (3)(a) juvenile petition, assuming the judge approves, “allows the system to work with the entire family,” rather than take punitive actions against the youth, Klein said. The actions would help the family unit “get to a point where they can properly supervise this young man,” help them “understand what sort of boundaries to place on him” and “how to enforce those boundaries so that this behavior doesn’t happen.”

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I am the Cops & Courts Reporter for the Grand Island Independent. I welcome news tips!

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