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After viral video, Syracuse lawmakers discuss youth and crime with new chief

Syracuse Police Department
Syracuse Police released bodycam footage of an incident that went viral recently, after police put an 8-year-old boy in the back of a police car after the boy allegedly stole chips from a nearby market

A viral video of Syracuse Police detaining an 8-year-old over some stolen chips led to a wide-ranging discussion from Syracuse Common Councilors Monday about youth and crime.

The story surrounding the viral video goes beyond how police handled a crying boy accused of taking some Doritos from a store. At its core, Council President Helen Hudson said it exemplifies the trauma so many residents of Syracuse live with.

“Everybody in the city of Syracuse is suffering from the same types of actions, reactions, trauma,” Hudson said. “We gotta start looking deeper into what we’re dealing with. Yeah, you snatch me by my collar you’d get a fight out of me because, again, we don’t know what’s gonna trigger somebody. So we need to be more conscious of how we’re handling people."

Police say the youth, who was not arrested, but taken to his home, has been involved in a number of petty crimes including stealing a bike.

“Is there any way that we can figure out when you officers are seeing younger kids that aren’t in family court, doing mischievous things, is there any way to get a list to get them the help and support they need?” Councilor Rasheada Caldwell asked Syracuse police Chief Joe Cecile.

Maybe, said Cecile.

"We would love to give the names out to service providers to put that person on the right path,” he said. “We’ll look into that, and if it’s something we can do, we’ll do it."

However, there are privacy issues at work here that often prevent police from sharing names of children to agencies. Other answers could include extending the template for dealing with mental health calls to police to youth. Deputy Mayor Sharon Owens said the city needs to do research on that. But ultimately, she believes the problem is not about children, but the adults.

“This is the hard part of the conversation that no one wants to talk about. It is also the adults being held accountable for the children they have birthed into this world,” said Owens. “As an adult, if you don’t have the capacity or support you need, that’s where we come in as municipalities, as officials to help support you."

With a layered, complicated issue like this, Caldwell agrees the adults must take the lead.

"I blame myself and the whole community, not for not just this young boy, but everything else that’s going on,” said Caldwell. “We’ve got to make this better and I know we can."