Throw the Book at Rock-Throwers


Maybe the six kids arrested recently for throwing rocks at moving cars and trucks didn't mean to hurt anybody. Maybe they didn't think about what can happen when a softball-sized rock slams into the windshield of a vehicle cruising at 50 or 60 miles per hour. That's no excuse. In fact, that's the problem. Either they didn't think about the consequences of their actions or they didn't care. Which is precisely why these rock-throwing incidents must not be dismissed as pranks. If the justice system doesn't forcefully oppose these kids, then other youths will go on thinking such troublemaking is fun.

The system must respond strongly to the incidents that caused no serious harm as well as the tragic April 3 rock-throwing that killed a Lothian father while he was driving home from work. In that case, prosecutors charged 16-year-old Jason Wayne Wyvill of Lothian as an adult with second-degree murder. It may be even more important, however, to deal severely with the five youths who tossed rocks at tractor-trailers from a U.S. 50 overpass near the Bay Bridge. Jason Wyvill, judging from the picture reporters have pieced together, is a troubled, possibly mentally ill youth who, prosecutors say, wanted to cause an accident. Ordinary teens with a penchant for mischief will not see themselves when they look at him. But they likely will identify with the U.S. 50 rock-throwers.

Ranging in age from 11 to 18, they don't appear to have been trying to hurt anyone. They were "bored," they told police. They were looking to pass the time, not cause an accident. They aimed at tractor-trailers because big trucks seemed less impersonal targets than cars. But they didn't think. It didn't occur to them that they could have killed someone.

It's time to stop protecting children from the consequences of their own actions. Kids need to be shaken up: If you play games with other people's lives and property, you pay a price. Forget about punishments as controversial as caning. What's the purpose of a spanking anyway? Not to hurt, but to humiliate. Embarrass young hooligans by treating them as adults -- their names printed in the newspapers, their cases heard in open court instead of shrouded in the secrecy of the juvenile justice system. Scare them straight. Make them and their friends think before they use other human beings as fodder for amusement.

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