Pinellas Co. sheriff calls auto theft epidemic a ‘deadly game’

PALM HARBOR, Fla. (WFLA) — Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri says teenagers are playing a deadly game when they commit auto burglary and auto theft.

“When you have 14, 15 and 16-year olds that are dying because of their actions it needs to stop,” he said.

Sheriff Gualtieri says it is a trend the sheriff’s office has seen over the last 18 months: teens stealing cars, going into neighborhoods and taking whatever they can grab fast.

That is what the sheriff believes three teenage boys were doing before they crashed and died Sunday morning in Palm Harbor.

“One of these deceased kids that is sitting in that car across the street still has gloves on his hands from doing the car burglaries,” said Gualtieri during a news conference.

He is calling the teens “prolific offenders.”

“One of them got released on [July] 31, stole this car on August 3 and now is dead,” Gualtieri said.

A similar case happened in March of 2016. Three teen girls were killed when deputies say they tried to get away in a stolen car and crashed into a pond in St. Petersburg. The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office said at the time all three had a history of grand theft auto.

Sheriff Gualtieri says his office has a dedicated task force to try and prevent what happened on Sunday, but says if parents and teens don’t take responsibility it will only continue to happen

“Where are these 14 and 15-year-olds at 4 o’clock in the morning? Do their parents know where they are?,” he said. “The parents need to engage also, we cannot do it all. we cannot be responsible for these kids.”


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