Crist to host town hall today in St. Pete about deadly teen car theft epidemic

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) — Congressman Charlie Crist will be in Pinellas County to try to find a solution to what local leaders are calling an epidemic.

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 steal cars, and then go into neighborhoods and take whatever they can grab fast.

Earlier this month, on August 8th, three teenage boys were killed in a Palm Harbor crash while playing a high-speed game of cat and mouse in a stolen car.

“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 after the crash.

Gualtieri described the teens as “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 teenage girls were killed when they crashed a stolen car in a pond in St. Petersburg. The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office said 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, 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 asked. “The parents need to engage also, we cannot do it all. We cannot be responsible for these kids.”

Wednesday at 6, Congressman Crist will hold a roundtable discussion about the scary trend. He will be talking to members of the community, including teens about how to stop it.

“To truly enact change, our youth must be a part of the solution and I look forward to hearing directly from them on how we can work together to do just that,” Crist said.

The roundtable will be Wednesday, August 23rd at 6 pm in the Community Room at St. Petersburg College Midtown located at 1300 22nd Street South in St. Pete.

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