Officials look to solve Pinellas County's teen car theft problem

- Top government and law enforcement officials in Pinellas County spent Monday night talking about how to solve its problem with teen car thefts.

The sheriff says the county tops the nation in the number of teenagers arrested for stealing cars.

"The window was slightly cracked, they had a jimmy of some sort. They went in," said Pat McGhee, an official with the Department of Juvenile Justice. "It makes me want to step out and really kind of get out there, work with these young people, and figure out what can we do."

Between the beginning of 2015 and the middle of 2016, Sheriff Gualtieri told FOX 13 that 742 teens have been arrested for stealing cars in Pinellas.

In nearly every case, the teens either had the keys first or found them in an unlocked car.

"They're driving fast, they're driving reckless, they're driving the wrong way on the Bayside Bridge," said Gualtieri. "They are fleeing from the cops."

The sheriff told the group he supports the state legislature's new bill that orders repeat offenders to be held for at least three weeks.

He also said his department has added two new staffers who will work with parents of troubled kids.

"What the experts came to consensus on is that we have enough programs, we have enough money, is that the kids and their parents are not engaged," said Gualtieri.

Several speakers said there aren't enough positive things for kids to do.

To that, Mayor Rick Kriseman said, the city was working on a roller rink and a bowling alley.

He also begged people to lock up, saying every car burglary in the last week in St. Pete was to an unlocked car.

"People have to help us," said Kriseman. "One of the ways you help us to lock your cars. Not keep your keys in your cars and not keep guns in the cars."

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