Atlantic Police Chief Steve Green reports three juveniles have been arrested in connection with a string of vandalisms which occurred over the past several weeks. 14-year old Patrick Ralston, 13-year old Isaiah Lagassie, and 13-year old Austin Boggs, all from Atlantic, were charged with Trespassing, Criminal Mischief in the 2nd degree, and Criminal Gang Participation. Two of the juveniles were transported to the Juvenile Detention Facility in Council Bluffs, while the third has been placed with his parents, pending a hearing. The arrests occurred on Sunday and Monday.
Green says his officers began receiving complaints a few weeks ago, about buildings in both the downtown Atlantic area, and residential areas, being spray painted. In all more than two-dozen buildings sustained damage, but Green doesn’t know the dollar amount of damage just yet, or for that matter, how much restitution the juveniles will be required to make to correct the damage. He says that’s because it’s been difficult to get estimated from the persons and businesses affected. There are costs involved with sandblasting, and in some cases people don’t go through the trouble to take that course of action.
Over the course of the last week, some specific lettering was discovered, which related to the teens attempting to identify themselves as a gang. The Chief says while the gang situation is being handled seriously, officers would like the public to know that both the age of the offenders and the quick response from law enforcement has prevented a “true gang” from evolving. He says the teens didn’t care if law enforcement knew who they were or not. He says they had a “heads-up” that the police were coming after them, but they continued to act irresponsibly. Green says their mindset was “We’re going to be rebels until the end,” which is an “uncool place to go when you’re 14-years old, because by the time you’re 18, you’re going to be a prime candidate for the (State) Pen.”
The Chief says officers from virtually every shift formed a team effort to stop the threat from maturing, and to solve the vandalisms that were taking place. He says he’s happy with the efforts of his officers to “Nip the situation in the bud,” and preventing the formation of any ongoing threats. And, while some people might think charges the teens with Criminal Gang Participation is a bit harsh, Green says “We have our reasons.”