INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Twice in 2015, IMPD detectives suspected 11-year-old children in a series of pharmacy robberies.
A Marion County murder suspect was accused of taking a 14-year-old and a 16-year-old along with him during the stickup of a drug store in Seymour last summer.
For several years, Indiana remained at the top of the standings for pharmacy robberies in America, though recent crackdowns and security changes have Hoosier robbers traveling as far as St. Louis to steal prescription drugs.
Senator Mike Young, an Indianapolis Republican, has proposed legislation to immediately waive 16- and 17-year-old suspects to criminal court after arrests for a pharmacy robbery whether a weapon was used or not.
“What these kids are doing, these juveniles, they’re getting between $1,500-2,500 to go in and rob a pharmacy to get $100,000 worth of prescription drugs that harm our citizens, that kill some of our citizens, that cause fights with gangs here on drugs, and there’s nothing we can do with these juveniles.
“They serve very little time they don’t get anything out of it because they’re a juvenile and yet these drug dealers are using them for one specific purpose, to get drugs to harm our citizens.”
IMPD detectives later arrested the adults who convinced the children to rob pharmacies in 2015.
“If we can take away the incentive and the robberies go down then the adults will have to do the robberies and then we can give them some longer prison sentences,” said Young.
Opponents to Senate Bill 170 argue the proposed legislation treats pharmacy robbers differently than suspects who would rob a convenience store or fast food restaurant.
“Robbery is already listed as a crime,” said Indiana Black Expo President & CEO Tanya Bell, “so it’s already being dealt with under the current law because if a juvenile goes into a pharmacy and commits robbery and if they’re armed or someone gets hurt they’re automatically adjudicated in adult court.”
Young said he seeks tougher penalties for pharmacy robbers because the drugs they steal have a more corrosive impact on society.
“If you put it on the scale which is more important: the people of the 150 lives that were taken because of drugs or a couple teenagers who may get waived to adult court because they’re going to take that chance?”
Bell is worried that charging teens as adults will lead to greater recidivism.
“We need to focus on the root cause of the problem and get to those adults doing it and not criminalize our youth, particularly if they are unarmed or no one gets hurt.
“We all know it is more likely for a youth if they are charged and adjudicated in adult court to reoffend.”
Young’s bill will be heard in committee at nine a.m. Wednesday in Room 130 of the Statehouse.