POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Five juveniles are facing criminal charges in Polk County after a late night ride in a stolen van, deputies said.
Around 2:25 a.m. on Tuesday, a Polk County Sheriff’s Office deputy spotted a white Dodge Ram transit van with its lights off traveling eastbound on Ronald Reagan Parkway near Highway 27 in Davenport.
When the van pulled into the parking lot of a Walgreens nearby, the deputy ran a license plate check, which showed the vehicle was reported stolen out of Broward County the week before.
The officer tried to pull the van over, but it fled the parking lot and started heading north on Highway 27.
When it reached the intersection of Florence Villa Grove, the driver tried to turn right, but lost control of the vehicle and crashed into a sign.
Post impact, all five teenagers in the van, ages 16, 13, 13, 15 and 15, fled the scene on foot. Two of the suspects were immediately detained. A helicopter crew spotted the three other suspects laying together in a field in Northeast Regional Park. One of the suspects, age 13, was apprehended by a K9. The other two were located and arrested by deputies, according to the arrest affidavits.
The13-year-old suspect was transported to the Heart of Florida Hospital in Haines City to treat minor injuries and has since been released.
According to the sheriff’s office, the stolen vehicle belongs to German Bread Haus, Inc., the employer of two of the suspects’ father. Deputies also found several BB guns inside the van.
All five juveniles were transported to the Juvenile Assessment Center. No further details regarding the incident have been released at this time.
“There’s no good reason for kids to be out late at night endangering themselves and others in a stolen van. This is a symptom of what’s wrong with our juvenile justice system. In Polk County, the Sheriff’s Office will hold these juveniles accountable,” said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd.
Law enforcement agencies across the Tampa Bay area are grappling with what is being called an “epidemic” of car thefts by juveniles.
Earlier this month, three teenage “prolific offenders” were killed in Palm Harbor after crashing a stolen Ford Explorer overnight.
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri described the incident as “an unfortunate continuation of the epidemic of juveniles engaging in the deadly game of auto burglary and auto thefts.”
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