Traverse City struggling to separate locked-up teens from adults due to little housing

A new Michigan law that prevents authorities from locking up teens under 18 near adults is causing challenges for communities that don’t have a separate place to keep young offenders.

Traverse City police recently had to make arrangements with Macomb County — 250 miles away — to house a 16-year-old who was caught in Florida for a local road rage felony, the Record-Eagle reported.

"I made 25 calls trying to find a place for him," Sgt. Matt Richmond said. "What I kept hearing was, ‘Call back tomorrow.’"

Richmond said he had tried facilities close to Traverse City but had no success. The reasons: no beds, out-of-county teens not accepted, a lack of staff.

Jason Smith, director of the Michigan Center for Youth Justice in Ann Arbor, said he has heard about the struggle to find places to hold certain teens.

"I can’t speak to why one community decides to fund a facility and another one doesn’t," Smith said. "But if Grand Traverse did the rounds and they landed on Macomb, if nothing was available closer to home, I think that is a larger question, a larger story, of what’s going on."

Grand Traverse County prosecutor Noelle Moeggenberg said having a place for juvenile offenders is a "huge need."

"There are many times when these kids have to be placed so far away, it prevents parents from visiting at all," she said.