Sheriff: Pinellas program for teen offenders needs ‘tweaks’ but working

sherifbob

SEMINOLE, Fla. (WFLA) – Two juveniles are facing numerous counts of burglary and grand theft auto charges after Pinellas County Sheriff’s deputies busted the teens for stealing Tuesday morning.

One of the teens, 15-year-old Nolvin Williams, is in the sheriff’s office H.O.M.E or Habitual Offender Monitoring Enforcement program, which is aimed at reducing teen crime.

Tuesday morning at 4:30 a.m., deputies responded to Augusta Boulevard in Seminole, regarding reports of a suspicious vehicle and two suspicious male subjects going house to house, checking vehicle door handles.

Investigators say they observed a stolen black Infinity SUV from St. Petersburg traveling westbound on Walsingham Road near Starkey Road. Detectives say the vehicle refused to stop and deputies were able to monitor the vehicle without initiating a vehicle pursuit.

When the vehicle approached the intersection of Belcher Road and Bryan Dairy Road, deputies deployed Stop Sticks and disabled it. Deputies say Williams and 14-year-old Mitheron Williams got out of the car and fled on foot near the intersection of Bryan Dairy Road and 109th Street. A K-9 unit tracked the teens hiding in the backyard of a home on 95th Street in Largo. Deputies found numerous stolen purses and key fobs inside the stolen SUV, which they say is linked to the burglaries in the Seminole neighborhood. Both juveniles were transported to the Pinellas Juvenile Assessment Center.

Back in July, another teen in the program punched and carjacked a woman outside a Wawa in St. Pete.

Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said the H.O.M.E. program is working but like any other new initiative, it’s still being tweaked.

“The program is working, during the last 16 weeks, last four months. The deputies and officers have checked on more than three thousand times, they’ve made a number of arrests and there is that constant contact. So overall, it is working, but like everything, is it perfect, no,” said Sheriff Gualtieri.

Williams, a repeat offender, did not have on a GPS monitoring system. Gualtieri said they have an electronic monitoring system up and running, but not every kid will have it. He said it’s up to the courts.

“Now in order to get on electronic monitoring, it has to be court ordered, so we can’t just put the kids on electronic monitoring, it has to be ordered by the court and so some of them who might and should be on electronic monitoring, their sanctions were imposed by the court before we were up and running with it,” said Sheriff Gualtieri.

Sheriff said there’s more than a hundred juveniles in the program, but not all of them will get or want the help they need.

“The reality is for some of them, we’re not going to be able to help them because they don’t want the help, they’re not going to help themselves. They’ve decided they’re on a certain path and they want to stay on that path. And those are the kids that need that there needs to be consequences for,” he said.

The sheriff said he is forming sub-committees to look at policies to see where deputies can oversee habitual offenders with more enforcement.

He said they also want to look at long-term solutions of the program.

The sheriff said overall, it boils down to the parents  of these teens to take accountability to know where their children are and what they’re up.

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