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Child psychologist says Gladwin County vandals may not understand consequences

Siblings age 5, 7 and 13 are accused of breaking into at least five houses and causing thousands of dollars in damage
Published: Apr. 7, 2021 at 7:22 PM EDT
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GLADWIN COUNTY, Mich. (WJRT) - A child psychologist believes three young children accused of vandalizing several houses in Gladwin County this week may not have understood the consequences of their actions.

The siblings ages 5, 7 and 13 are accused of breaking into at least five residences in the Wildwood Shores area of Bourret Township on Monday and Tuesday. Inside, police say the kids caused thousands of dollars worth of damage in each house.

Homeowners found smashed dishes, paint flung onto their walls, spray painted graffiti, fire extinguishers discharged inside, holes punched in the walls and more.

The Gladwin County Sheriff’s Office says the children vandalized at least five homes and possibly more. Several homes in the rural area northeast of Gladwin are vacation homes, so some of the owners may not have checked for damage yet.

Investigators are still looking into whether anything was stolen from any of the houses. Reports are two of the break-ins are complete and have been forwarded to the Gladwin County Prosecutor’s Office, which will decide whether to file criminal charges.

Dr. Recco Richardson, a child psychologist at Hurley Medical Center, said this sort of vandalism unfortunately is nothing new. He said kids get bored much more easily nowadays, and at the siblings’ young ages they don’t necessarily think about the consequences.

“In terms of good decision-making and wanting to fit in and wanting to be considered cool and down for the cause, I can see a 5 and 7-year-old tagging along to be part of a break-in or any type of crime,” Richardson said. “By themselves, they probably would never do anything like that. A 13-year-old would do something like that by themselves.”

Photos of the damage left inside the houses looks like whoever is responsible went on a rampage.

“When kids act out in that manner, sometimes it’s anger, sometimes it’s boredom, sometimes it’s a lack of supervision by their parents,” Richardson said. “But there is a growing number of kids that are teenagers that are just flat out rebellious. That perfect parenting in the perfect home, there can still be a child that does these types of things.”

In 2019, the law was changed in the state of Michigan to raise the age of the adult in the criminal justice system from 17 to 18 years old. However, the new law won’t take effect until this October, so 17-year-olds are considered adults legally in criminal cases for six more months.

Any juveniles under 18 who are convicted of criminal activity could become part of a rehabilitation program. The equal justice initiative notes treating minors as adults can have lasting harmful effects.

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