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Juvenille Criminals Taking Bite Out of Macon County's Budget

Updated: Tuesday, July 8 2014, 04:19 PM CDT
MACON COUNTY -- A change in state law is taking a toll on some Illinois' counties budgets. The law requires anyone under age 18 charged with a crime to be housed in juvenile detention; rather than a 17 year old charged with felony going to the county jail.

As of Monday, Macon county has 21 juveniles in custody; way more than the average of 5-8 in custody. All are between the ages of 12 and 18 years old. They're in for everything from armed robbery and burglary to murder.

"I think at some point this will hopefully slow down," said Amy Smith, Juvenile Probation Supervisor. Macon county doesn't have a juvenile detention facility. It closed more than 10 years ago because of money.

Currently, the county budgets about $211,000 a year to house five juveniles in Peoria county; but with 21 juveniles in custody, it's costing the county $2,200 a day.

"Despite the cost to house in another county, my understanding is it still costs our county less to do that than to operate another facility," Smith said.

The court services department is trying to fill the gap by not filling a probation supervisor position and shifting money around in the budget. But if Macon county continues to see a higher number of juveniles locked up, it could bust the budget by $200,000 by the end of the year.

"Our director is meeting with county board members and trying to educate them on our current situation and they've been extremely supportive," said Smith.

There's a chance the number of juvenile arrests could get worse before it gets better.

"We start to see it spike after school's released for summer break," said Lt. Jamie Belcher with the Macon county sheriff's office. "They get bored and try to find stuff to do to occupy their time, as well as parents are away at work and kids have minimal supervision."

A slight silver lining is juvenile cases usually go through the court system much faster than adult cases. We're told some juveniles are only in custody for a week, before going to court. However, about half of juveniles in custody in Macon county now are being held on adult charges.Juvenille Criminals Taking Bite Out of Macon County's Budget

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