KANKAKEE — Police have been questioned. Mayors have been cited. Prosecutors have been challenged. All in regard to the scope of the problem with juvenile law-breakers.

A group noticeably absent from that collection of people being queried, Kankakee County State’s Attorney Jim Rowe said, is the one closest — or at least the group that should be closest — to these offenders: the parents.

Rowe did not omit that group when he talked about the work to stop the cycle of crime which is plaguing this region.

He said no amount of after-school mentoring programs or special fishing clubs will abate this crime cycle if the parents aren’t involved in the lives of these children who eventually become entangled with law enforcement.

Speaking at Wednesday’s “2021 State of the County” breakfast presented by the Kankakee County Chamber of Commerce, Rowe asked a simple question of those gathered at the Knights of Columbus banquet room.

“Where are our parents?” he asked. “It’s time to start calling them out. It’s time to start pushing back. We have to start holding the parents accountable.”

After the two-hour program, the two-term state’s attorney expounded on his comments which pointed the finger of crime problems squarely at parenting — or more correctly — the lack of parenting.

“Where are these parents when their kids are out until 2 or 3 in the morning? When kids are out shooting up the community?” he asked. “Parents have the ability to prevent this. They are not taking their jobs seriously. It’s my opinion that many of these parents are actually empowering kids doing this.”

He pointed to known residences of gang members where parents do battle with law enforcement, preventing them from getting to the source of neighborhood or community-wide crimes.

Rowe noted there are civil liability laws that can be used to deal with some of these matters, but there is no criminal laws to hold these problem residents accountable for the damage they are bringing to the front doors of others.

It will take action in Springfield to create such a vehicle needed to grab the attention of parents, he said.

In the most basic of terms, Rowe said these problematic young residents — in which he estimated are fewer that 15 — “are simply not being raised by their parents.”

He estimated this group of minors are likely causing 90 percent of the area’s shooting incidents.

He said some aspect of this can leave someone scratching their head.

“You know, we can hold parents accountable for not getting their kids to school, but we can’t hold them accountable when their kids are shooting up the neighborhood,” he said.

He added.

“These parents are simply AWOL, and we can’t make a parent be a parent,” he said. “But let’s make a law to make them accountable for their children’s actions.”

Without such a law, he said, the enabling behavior will continue and will likely grow.

“Right now, there is no accountability,” he said.

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Lee Provost, an award-winning reporter, has been writing local news stories for The Daily Journal since 1988. He is a lifelong resident of the region. Provost can be reached at lprovost@daily-journal.com.