1908 was a rough year for kids in Santa Rosa – or maybe it was a year of rough kids.

It appears there was far more juvenile crime than in recent years, possibly continuing the trend of 1907’s summer of the incorrigibles, where the newspapers reported robbery, arson, burglary, armed buggy hijacking, and habitual chicken snatching. Came 1908, and hooliganism was so rampant that the kiddie crime docket must be split across several posts, this one specializing in the breaking-and-entering variety.

The little boy who crawled through a school window and stuffed his pockets with scissors (which could be of high quality and quite valuable in that era) apparently stole them in a crime of opportunity – although he and his buddy crossed other lines by trying to hock the shears and lying to police. Far more sorrowful is the account of 8 year-old Tom Downey, caught attempting his second (known) break-in. “He is a hardened little criminal,” one of the papers editorialized.

We know little of the back stories of these children, except for egg and chicken thief William Heliel, who spent a few years at reform school after attempting to derail a train. But we know nothing about the Bowman boys, who robbed a barber shop, lumber yard, dry goods emporium and hardware store. Yet of them all, their stories may be the most sympathetic; they seemed to be thieving only for practical things needed to survive.

Eight Years Old and Caught Entering a Store

On Sunday Probation Officer John M. Boyes arrested a small boy named Tom Downey, aged about eight years, who is an incorrigible, and detained him in jail. The youngster recently broke into the skating rink and on Sunday was found attempting to enter the rear of the store of Kopf & Donovan on Third street. He is a hardened little criminal and his relatives have been unable to do anything with him.

He claims to have made a trip back east as far as Montana, though eight years of age; and considerable trouble has been experienced with him in the past by the officers. It is not yet known what will be done with him, but he will probably be sent to some house of correction. The case will come before the probation court.

– Santa Rosa Republican, May 18, 1908

Youthful thieves the Peculiar Stories of Escapades

Fred Janssen and Louie Volpi, two youths of this city, are in trouble over the theft of about thirteen pairs of scissors from the school building at South Park. They are both in custody, and will be given a hearing at once. Both lads put up several stories in response to questions by officer John M. Boyes that show them to be among the most accomplished liars that have ever been taken up by the police.

While walking out Main street Friday morning, officer Boyes noticed two small boys break and run as if their lives depended on it when he approached. He attached but small significance to the speedy retreat of the lads. Later in the afternoon he found one of them in Johnson’s pawn shop, endeavoring to dispose of a dozen pairs of shears. This lad was Fred Jannsen. Instantly the officer recognized the lad by his cap and high lace shoes as one who made the speedy “get away” in the morning. He took the lad to the police station and questioned him, and the lies that Janssen told almost convinced the officer that the boy came by the scissors honestly. He first declared he had received them through purchase from Tulare, and referred the officer to the postoffice clerks as authority for the statement. The officer went to investigate and found that Janssen had lied. The boy next said he found them in a vacant lot at Sebastopol and Santa Rosa avenues, then changed the lot to Mill street and Santa Rosa avenue, then the scene changed to the South Park school yard, then to an ash barrel in the yard. Finally the lad admitted he had stolen the scissors from the school building.

Janssen located Louie Volpi as his companion in crime and for a time Volpi “stood pat” on the assertion that the scissors were found in the ash barrel. He finally admitted he had lied and that the boy first arrested had stolen them. He declared Janssen had told him to say the scissors had been found by the ash barrel and he did so.

The boys were playing ball in the school grounds and the ball was thrown through a window. In recovering the ball from the structure, Janssen had gone inside the building. He saw the scissors, the temptation to steal them overcame him, and according to Volpi, he came out with his pockets bulging. Volpi denies that he entered the building or had anything to do with stealing the scissors.

– Santa Rosa Republican, January 4, 1908

Fred Janssen and Louis Volpi have been placed on probation by City Recorder Bagley pending developments regarding their theft of thirteen pairs of scissors from the South Park school building Friday. The lads have proven to the officers that they have little regard for the truth, and if their behavior does not materially mend they will be sent to the reform school. The boys secured the scissors by entering through a window and then tried to dispose of them at a second hand store. When captured by Police Officer Boyes they told all kinds of lies in an effort to escape detection, but finally Volpi confessed.

– Press Democrat, January 5, 1908
Paroled Boy From Ione Again Committed Crime

Today a warrant was issued for the arrest of William Heliel, at present a resident with his parents at Bellevue, on the charge of grand larceny. This young fellow, who is 17 years old, is alleged to have carried on quite a business of stealing poultry and eggs, his last being 125 chickens and ten or twelve dozen eggs.

About three years ago the boy was arrested, charged with trying to wreck a train of cars at Bellevue, and was sent to the Ione reform school. A short time ago he was released on parole, but it appears that this was clemency thrown away, for he recommenced a career of crime immediately on release. His relations consider him incorrigible and wish to see him in confinement again.

– Santa Rosa Republican, May 20, 1908
Two Brothers Lodged in Jail Sunday Night on Charges

Sunday night the officers discovered a boy trying to cut his way into the rear of Fred Hesse’s cyclery on B street, and in attempting to make his escape the boy dropped a large knife. He was soon arrested and proved to be James Bowman, and the knife was recognized as similar to one which had been reported as stolen from the hardware store of Potter & Son a few nights ago. Bowman was accused of having burglarized Potter’s store and admitted the same, and when the officers went to the young man’s home in the northern part of the city, they found that he had taken from the hardware store a lot of ammunition, fish hooks and lines, a reel, a razor, two dozen knives, a pair of pliers, and a fruit check punch. The latter evidently for the purpose of tampering with his fruit checks during the summer work.

At the time the officers were at the house getting the things which the boy had stolen, they met his brother, Tom Bowman, coming home with a load of wood on his back, and he was arrested and charged with petty larceny.

– Santa Rosa Republican, May 25, 1908
They Robbed Lowry Barber Shop and Denio Store

Officers Lindley and Yeager Monday learned who robbed Denio’s store on lower Fourth street, Mrs. Lowry’s barber shop and Smith’s second hand store some time ago. The energetic burglars are the Bowman boys, living on North street, who were arrested Sunday, James charged with breaking into Hess’ store and Potter & Cunningham’s store, and Thomas Bowman for stealing wood. One of the boys had on a pair of trousers which he had taken from Denio’s place and several other articles from that store were found in their possession. Ton Bowman admitted that he broke into the Lowry barber shop on D street and stole several razors several months ago. The boys also confessed that they stole lumber from the Fitts yard.

James Bowman made a complete confession, and it clears up several housebreaking affairs that have been bothering the police for some time. He was held by Justice Atchinson to appear for trial in the Superior Court on $500 bail.

– Santa Rosa Republican, May 26, 1908

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