If you break it, you fix it.

That's the gist of a piece of legislation that's been unanimously approved by a New Jersey Assembly committee.

Under the legislation, judges would be able to order that certain delinquent juveniles perform their mandated community service in the same town where they committed the offense.

Assemblyman William Spearman, D-Gloucester, said he crafted the bill after hearing concerns from a local mayor who was dealing with a park and monuments that had been destroyed by minors.

"The youth in question were not required to come back and clean off the graffiti," Spearman said. "Why should they be cleaning up a park in their town when they damaged equipment in our town?"

Under the bill, the judge could require same-town community service of juveniles adjudicated delinquent for any count that would constitute as criminal mischief at the adult level.

The bill's original language indicated that a judge would be required to demand that the community service occur in the same town as the offense, but Spearman said during a meeting of the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee that a judge would merely have the option.

The committee, which Spearman chairs, approved the bill by a vote of 7-0 on Jan. 23.

Andrea Johnson, legislative liaison for the Administrative Office of the Courts, said while the agency is not opposed to the bill, it is concerned about potential unintended consequences.

For example, Johnson said, a minor who's forced to return to the town where a crime was committed may have the opportunity to reengage with "individuals that have already had a negative impact on their behavior."

The approach may be logistically impossible in some cases, she added.

"Consider the person who lives in Ocean and commits an offense in Union or Essex," she said. "How do we facilitate the transportation back? There may not be an adult in the child's life."

Dino Flammia is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com

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