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Teens crash stolen Jeep before man drives off in NJ officer’s patrol car, sparking high-speed chase – NBC New York

A New Jersey police chief is calling for changes to the state’s juvenile justice system after saying a 15-year-old boy driving a stolen Jeep intentionally rammed his officers, and then another man stole a police cruiser, leading to a high-speed chase.

The incident occurred early Monday morning in Secaucus. The teen crashed into an officer’s vehicle in front of a gas station on Route 3.

“His first reaction was ‘I’m 15, I’m only 15.’ For him to say that means he thinks he should be treated without accountability,” said Secaucus Police Chief Dennis Miller. “He doesn’t even have the legal authority to drive. He used that patrol car as a weapon to injure my police officers and then fled.”

The teenage driver and a 16-year-old passenger were quickly taken into custody. But that’s when, the chief said, a 23-year-old man in the backseat bolted and fled in an officer’s patrol car, leading police on a high-speed chase through Secaucus, Jersey City, Kearny and Newark.

Police said the carjacker abandoned the patrol car in the Hillside neighborhood. Damage to the vehicle is estimated to be in the thousands of dollars.

“We need to hold criminals accountable for their crimes. They are not being held accountable for their actions,” Miller said, expressing frustration.

Police said one of the arrested teens had just been released from his electronic bracelet in June. Now the chief wants lawmakers to make reforms to the juvenile justice system to allow police to better pursue repeat offenders regardless of their age, and to allow prosecutors to pursue them.

“We all need to come together to hold people accountable,” he said. “All I’m saying is that our legislators need to look at the law and say, ‘How can we do this better?’… It’s frustrating to have to go to my staff and ask them to do this job, which is a thankless job, and it’s frustrating to see people, both juveniles and adults, being released almost immediately. They’re not being put in jail for committing these acts.”

The chief said his department has investigated several stolen cars so far this summer, some of which involved minors. Police have said it is an epidemic that needs to be addressed.

“Today we’re training young people. By not holding them accountable, we’re enabling recidivism,” Miller said, noting that juvenile suspects end up committing more crimes because they’re often released quickly. “People are tired of being victimized.”

The officer injured in the crash was shot in the leg but is expected to recover. The 23-year-old who fled in the patrol car faces several charges.