Fairgrounds now closed at night
Three juveniles have been cited in Youth Court by the Hamilton City Police on felony burglary and criminal mischief charges. The male juveniles are 11, 12 and 13 years old. The juveniles were cited following an investigation of a couple of break-ins at the Ravalli County Fairgrounds that took place over the weekend of April 2-3. Someone broke into the commercial kitchen at the First Interstate Center and also into the Ag Barn, damaging an electric golf cart, some glass display cases and some table racks. Fairgrounds Manager Melissa Saville said they have submitted a report to the city police detailing about $3,000 worth of damage.
Saville said that in response to these events it was decided to temporarily close the gates to the Fairgrounds after hours and on weekends. She said that when she first came on as manager, the park gates were always locked after hours and on weekends. She said many saw it as a community asset that was not being used to its full extent and they thought that they would turn that around.
“We decided to try something different and started the open gates policy to encourage people to come to the facility at night and walk their dogs or have a picnic or just take a walk and get some fresh air.
Saville said that the closure was a temporary thing, but for the next 30 to 60 days the Fairground gates will only be open between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The Fairgrounds will still be open for special events on the weekends.
“Obviously, gates aren’t going to keep people out if they really want to get in bad and do some mischief, but it makes it more difficult,” said Saville. “We are really just asking people to be respectful of the facility. We would like to reopen as quickly as possible. We are looking forward to having people back in the evening.”
Chief Juvenile Probation Officer Clint Arneson said that he had reviewed the case for Youth Court and was preparing a recommendation to the County Attorney’s Office not to press charges in District Court. He said that if the kids are willing to accept responsibility for what they did, and perform some sort of community service to make up for their damages, it makes for a better solution for everyone.
“We don’t want to criminalize children for making poor decisions, often with no guidance and no adequate supervision,” said Arneson. He said after receiving a recommendation from the Youth Court the County Attorney has 10 days to respond.
“He still has the option to press charges in District Court if he thinks it’s warranted,” said Arneson.
According to the Youth Court Service’s Annual Report for 2020 submitted to Ravalli County District Court Judges Jennifer Lint and Howard Recht, from January 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020, 112 youth were cited into Ravalli CountyYouth Court Services for 194 offenses, compared to 147 youth committing 240 offenses in 2019. About half of the 2020 offenses were status offenses for Minor in Possession of Alcohol, Minor in Possession of Tobacco, Ungovernable, Curfew Violation and Littering. Of the 112 youth cited into Youth Court Services in 2020 for 143 intakes, only 10 out of 105 males seen by Youth Court in 2020 were booked in the detention center for either a new offense or probation violation. Out of 74 youth new to Youth Court in 2020, only one was a repeat offender.
Michael Howell can be contacted at: [email protected] or (406)239-4838.