ST. LOUIS – Calling for a change in the fight against juvenile crime, St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell says he is looking into possible legislative reforms. 

Bell talked about tackling what he believes is an outdated juvenile court system

“I think it does need to be updated because what we see particularly in these car thefts and carjacking cases is these rings,” he said. “These car theft rings are recruiting young people because they know young people will not be arrested oftentimes or will be out quickly.” 

FOX 2 was granted exclusive access to a meeting between police and juvenile court officers in which they discussed increasing challenges. Their next stop was a meeting with Bell. 

“The prosecutors in the juvenile courts do not work for me. I do not get to make the call,” Bell said. 

Bell expressed his dissatisfaction with juvenile courts following the death of an off-duty Moline Acres Police Sgt. in a crash caused by teenagers fleeing in a stolen car. 

“We contacted the juvenile courts because we believed that they should have been charged,” he said. “We weren’t suggesting what the charge should be, what the punishment should be, what have you, but they should be issued, and juvenile courts would not. We asked them would they consider certifying this case because an officer was killed, a person was killed, and they would not.” 

“That’s something legislation could address and bring these legal officers, who are the prosecutors in the juvenile courts, into our office,” Bell said. “Now, we can address these young people holistically.” 

Bell said he is now working with legislators on reform, which he believes could do more than lock up teens. He said juveniles could also be held accountable through programs his office uses for what is called “diversion.”