County opposes legislation

JOHNSTOWN — The Fulton County Board of Supervisors went on record Monday opposing proposed legislation to raise the age of criminal responsibility in New York state from 16 to 18.

“The burden shouldn’t go onto the backs of county taxpayers who are already stretched too thin,” said Gloversville 5th Ward Supervisor Gregory Young.

Young said Fulton County’s sheriff, district attorney and public defender have all addressed this proposal with some opposition.

Supervisors passed a resolution at the County Office Building opposing the state’s Commission on Youth, Public Safety and Justice recommendation to raise the age of criminal responsibility from age 16 to 18. Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order on April 9, 2014 establishing the commission.

“The Fulton County Board of Supervisors insists the state Legislature enact legislation that fully, permanently and unambiguously obligates the state to pay for 100 percent of all new costs incurred by probation departments and other county departments and agencies affected by raising the age of criminal responsibility,” the resolution said.

The resolution indicated state Division of Criminal Justice Services’ statistics reveal the number of arrests among 16- and 17-year-olds statewide in 2015 was 27,281. Under the proposed changes, these youths will be shifted from criminal courts to local probation departments. The resolution says Cuomo’s proposal recommends probation departments provide “a continuum of diversion services that range from minimal intervention for low-risk youth and evidence-based services for high-risk youth.”

Fulton County supervisors feel probation departments won’t be able to absorb the influx of youth requiring intake and diversion services at current staffing levels and will require additional staff, the resolution said.

Young said he’s not opposed to “taking [youth] out of this system.” But he said counties such as Fulton County won’t be able to afford the change.

Gloversville 2nd Ward Supervisor Frank Lauria Jr. estimated two-thirds of the youth in the high-teens criminal categories don’t complete high school. He said this adds more of an educational burden to the community, as well.

“Other county departments and agencies may be similarly affected by the increase in the age of responsibility in areas that range from juvenile detention to community support services and do not have alternative sources of income to support the cost of additional responsibilities and services,” the resolution said.

“I’m against the mandate part of this,” Lauria said.

Gloversville 6th Ward Supervisor Warren Greene, a former county probation director, said he’s also against the state mandate part of the age change. He said other states probably don’t have the extent of youthful offenders like New York state does.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at [email protected]

By Patricia Older

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