New tactics to target teenage criminals

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It was one of the most brazen crimes caught on video: Teens busted through a St. Petersburg convenience store door to pillage and steal, shortly after school's out for summer.

Others travel in packs for so-called flash mob burglaries.

Violence can lead to murder, as in the recent killing of an Orlando mother caught in the crossfire of a teen shootout as her 5-year-old child watched. 

"We allow kids like that to roam the streets even after they've had vicious, vicious criminal charges lodged against them," complained Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd.

It's a vicious cycle of young criminals who know how to game the system and they are not afraid.

"They know they're going to be released to a parent within 24 hours and they know they can't be held more than 21 days without some type of hearing or released to home detention. And so they have no fear of consequences," offered State Senator Darryl Rouson.

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said more than 700 teens have been arrested for stealing cars there since last year.  The sheriff's office teamed up with St. Petersburg police for a countywide initiative to fight the problem.

"We created a program called HOME which is Habitual Offender Monitoring Enforcement.  It's keeping tabs on these kids who are the prolific offenders," said Sheriff Gualtieri.

PREVIOUSLY: Program targets repeat-offender teens in Pinellas Co.

The sheriff said he's seen some stabilization in juvenile crime due to initiatives like this, but it's just scratching the surface of the epidemic.

"When they take those cars and steal them or they get whatever it is they are trying to get out of those cars from those burglaries  they are then engaging in other crime and some of that crime serious crime," the sheriff continued.

A new law taking effect in October may help matters.  It will allow the court to designate certain juveniles as prolific offenders.

"That will help because the judges can then keep the kids in secure detention, they can put them on active electronic monitoring, and they can do things that will not allow those kids to get back on the street," Gualtieri said.

But the sheriff said, in the long run, enforcement isn't the answer.

"We need to fix underlying, what's causing the behavior," he added.  "We're making progress on that. We're working towards that."

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