LAKELAND (FOX 13) - Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd is lashing out at the Department of Juvenile Justice after three incidents over the last week have led to car crashes, deaths, stolen guns, drugs, and multiple charges being filed.
Judd says the DJJ system is failing, saying there isn't enough bed space for prolific offenders, nor are their punishments harsh enough.
Judd’s comments come Thursday when two unrelated incidents involving teens in his county resulted in six arrests. One group of teenagers were allegedly caught in Winter Haven with three stolen guns. Another group was allegedly found in Bartow after a joyride in a stolen car.
The six teens are facing nearly 60 charges and they already have extensive histories in the Juvenile Justice System.
“They are not being held accountable. It's déjà vu,” Judd said.
These arrests come only days after three teens died after the stolen car they were driving crashed in Pinellas County.
A mother from Lakeland whose 15- and 17-year-old have been arrested for stealing cars and having guns told FOX 13 when there is enough space, the juvenile justice programs do have a temporary impact.
Her 17-year-old was just released from a 9-month DJJ program.
“He was always wanting to rip and run out of the house. Now he's always home. He wants to get back into school and play football. He missed an entire year of football,” she said.
DJJ told FOX 13 it's the court system's responsibility to prescribe punishments that the department then carries out.
DJJ says new rules, going into effect in October, requires teens labeled prolific offenders to be held until punishments are handed out.
The sheriff says he is going to encourage new legislation this year to help beef up the DJJ system, saying if it takes more money, it's worth it.