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Boys Steal M&Ms from the 7-Eleven and get Arrested

*All names have been changed to protect the identities of the participants.

If the case goes to court… the two boys must be processed through the juvenile justice system; the public defender would represent one young offender and must hire an outside attorney to defend the other youth at an additional cost to taxpayers.  The case could easily take months to be heard in court.  The 7-Eleven owner and the young offenders’ parents would be required to take time off work to attend the court hearings--including postponements.  The youth would need to miss school.  In addition, a high percentage of court cases are, in fact, ultimately dismissed (for a variety of reasons).  All of this is costly in terms of both time and money....

Instead, this case was referred to the Community Conferencing Center.  And this is what happens when people are given a chance to resolve cases of juvenile delinquency through Community Conferencing:

Two young people charged with theft.

Two boys – Timothy (12 years old) and Terrance (14 years old), entered their local 7-Eleven and each stole a pack of M&Ms.  The manager caught them and called the police.  They were arrested and subsequently charged with theft.

The police referred the case to the Community Conferencing Center to provide everyone with a chance to:

  • Hear what happened
  • Hear how everyone has been affected
  • Decide how to resolve the situation and prevent it from happening again.

The Community Conferencing facilitator invited the store owner, store manager, Timothy’s parents, Terrance’s older sister, Ms. Tina (his legal guardian), and the police social worker to attend.

The Community Conference was scheduled for a Monday evening at 6pm.  The store owner, Mr. Simon, requested that the conference take place at the 7-Eleven because of his demanding work schedule.  (The Community Conferencing Center has conducted several Community Conferences in the stores where offenses have taken place in order to accommodate busy merchants.)

Community Conference takes place in the parking lot

Nearly everyone arrived on time.  It became clear that because of the size of the group, it was going to be difficult to actually convene the conference inside the store with little disruption.  It being a warm night for February, the group agreed to meet outside in the parking lot.  The participants stood in a circle as Timothy and Terrance explained what happened.  Each said they entered the store and, seeing the employees were preoccupied with other things, they took the candy.

Mr. Simon explained to the parents there had been an increase in problems with the neighborhood youth – shoplifting, vandalizing, and loitering.  It damaged his business and he wanted it to stop.  It’s important for him to be a part of the community and that he, since opening the store, took pride in getting to know his customers who live in the neighborhood.  He asked the parents to help him, and he saw their willingness to attend the Community Conference as a great first step.

Timothy’s parents spoke about how they felt embarrassed by his actions.  His mother said, “I’m a regular at your store, and I can’t believe my son tried to steal from you.”

Shocked and Disappointed

Terrence’s aunt Ms. Tina offered similar concerns.  His uncle Fred shared, “I was shocked and disappointed when the call came from the police.  Terrance recently received a report card and was listed on the Honor Roll.  So his actions contradict his success in school, and this deeply concerns me.”

His cousin Devin acknowledged he had been with Timothy and Terrance that day, and he made a decision to stay outside to avoid getting in trouble.  The group recognized Devin for making a good choice, and challenged him to help others make similar choices down the road.

The police social worker asked Timothy and Terrance to imagine what would happen if shoplifting continued to be a problem:  “Wouldn’t the store have to eventually close?  Then where would people in your neighborhood go for milk, bread, eggs, and morning coffee?”

After everyone spoke about how they felt they were affected by the incident, Terrance took the lead by sharing, “I’m sorry…”  and shook everyone’s hand in the circle--including the facilitator, thanking them for their help.  Timothy followed with verbal apologies to his family and to Mr. Simon and Mr. Miles.

The written Community Conference agreement:

  • Terrance apologized to everyone in the circle.
  • Timothy apologized to his parents, and to the 7-Eleven owner and manager.
  • Terrance and Timothy agreed to suggest to their peers that they shouldn’t steal.
  • Timothy’s parents agreed to speak with Timothy’s little brother (not in attendance) about the Community Conference and Mr. Simon’s concerns.  (Mr. Simon expressed concern about Timother’s brother’s behavior in and around the store.)
  • (Timothy’s parents) agreed to make an appointment with the police social worker to discuss programs for Terrance. 
  • Devin was recognized for staying outside and deciding not to steal from the store.

At the close of every Community Conference, refreshments are offered to the participants.  The facilitator offered the group refreshments she had brought to the meeting.  Mr. Simon cheerfully interrupted and said to everyone, “Please help yourselves to something to eat or drink in the store,” and then he looked at Terrance and Timothy and teased, “I guess I owe you boys some M&Ms!”  Everyone laughed.

The Community Conference helped resolve the situation and kept the case from being processed through the Department of Juvenile Services.  Through this safe and structured process, the young men were held accountable by and to their community, and found a way to move forward that would be beneficial for everyone.

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