Young car thieves in Pinellas to see stiffer penalties

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Young car thieves in Pinellas County will soon face tougher penalties. 

Its part of a larger effort to reduce the deadly epidemic that’s killed a half dozen young people in recent months and has leaders concerned.

This month, three young men died in a wreck involving a stolen SUV.

In March 2016, three young women died in a stolen car, driven into a cemetery pond.

“It’s a wake-up call. Like you, everybody, like, should take this seriously, because people are dying because of something that they think is fun,” said Northeast High School student, Shenyah Ruth.

Ruth is one of a number of students asked to come up with ideas to reduce car thefts.

For Rashon Weeks, the latest deaths in Palm Harbor hit home. He knew the men who died.

“Learn by example. You see what happened when so and so did this. Make sure you don’t fall in their footsteps,” said Weeks.

Congressman Charlie Crist, who led the discussion, believes solving the car theft problem involves many.

“I think it’s both a law enforcement component, a compassion component. You know, sadly, some of these children have no leadership at home,” said Crist.

Young car thieves know they can get away with it.

“The kids have been telling, ‘there’s no consequences. If I steal a car today, I get out today. If I steal a car tomorrow, I get out tomorrow,’” said St. Petersburg Police Chief Chief Anthony Holloway.

That will change October 1, when new detention rules kick in.

Just as the meeting started, a group from the Uhuru movement chanted.

Meeting participants got up from their seats and left the room.

Police eventually escorted the Uhuru members outside and the meeting continued.

Some of the ideas discussed included more role models for young people, better parenting and the new detention plan. Thieves will be held for longer times.

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