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PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (November 2, 1997 - Samoa News)---A crime syndicate is committing burglaries in the Ottoville area of American Samoa, and it appears to be made up mainly of juveniles who should be in school.

Ottoville is a newly-developed residential area with upscale homes that are rented primarily to government and private contractor workers from overseas.

Commissioner of Public Safety Te'o Fuavai told the Samoa News that police are "hot on the tracks" of the offenders. "We are aware of the situation at Ottoville," said Te'o. "But it may jeopardize our chances of bringing these unsupervised kids to answer for their crimes if we divulge information to the media."

Te'o said that many burglaries --of cars and houses-- take place during daylight hours when residents are not home.

Representative Tualauta Faleatafa Tulafono Solaita says he has been told that bus drivers are part of the scheme. The bus drivers reportedly drive through the Ottoville area to identify homes which are empty, and then pass this information on to juveniles who break in looking for valuables.

"This is shocking and appalling to our fa'a-Samoa (Samoan way) if we have adults organizing such crimes," an angry Tualauta told the Samoa News. He said he will bring the issue up during a community meeting this week. "We need input and descriptions of the people involved in this in order for police to help the residents of Ottoville," he said.

Department of Public Safety (DPS) Captain Mau Mau, Jr. of the Police Traffic and Patrol Division said such rumors have not been reported to the police, but he encourages residents to contact DPS's Criminal Investigation Division if they have information.

"We have a lot of unsolved burglary cases in the Ottoville area and with the help of the community we might be able to put a stop to this problem," the Captain added.

"There is no question about it," pointed out Commissioner Te'o, "criminal offenses involving juveniles are on the increase."

According to the 1995 American Statistical Digest released by the Department of Commerce, juvenile offenses increased by 49 per cent in 1994.

In 1994, 171 complaints involving juveniles were reported to the Department of Public Safety, compared to 115 the previous year.

The most common crime involving juveniles is burglary, which accounted for 34 complaints in 1994. Assault cases involving juveniles increased by 70% (from 10 in 1993 to 17 in 1994).

The Statistical Report also showed a growing number of runaways reported to DPS and referred to the Social Services Division. For instance, 17 runaways were reported to DPS for fiscal years 1991 and 1992 respectively. In 1993 and 1994, there were 33 and 34 reports.

According to Commissioner Te'o, juvenile delinquency is a social problem which not only affects private residents, but businesses, families and the "entire society."

"We should not be pointing fingers," he said. "We need the community 's support and parents' support in order to reach out and erase the problems created by these delinquents.

Stories from the SAMOA NEWS, American Samoa's daily newspaper, may not be republished without permission. To contact the publisher, send e-mail to >samoanews@samoatelco.com

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