Youths stealing cars still a problem in St. Pete

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The city of St. Petersburg is taking a hard look at its car theft problem after losing two teens who were known repeat offenders. 

Sunday night, St. Pete police say 18-year-old Damari Milton and 16-year-old Dequante Lightsey stole a convertible. Investigators say the teens' wild night ended in a fiery, high-speed speed crash into a tree on 38th Ave. N. The teens didn't survive.

Police say both had criminal records involving other auto thefts. Milton was even pictured on Facebook holding an assault-style rifle, with dozens of car keys at his feet.

Rev. Kenny Irby worked with Milton in a court-ordered program to try and turn his life around.

"This is a kid, from day one, that I saw myself losing,” Irby said. “He would come in eager, enthused about life and learning. Somewhere he lost that.”

Rev. Irby says he and others are working to reduce the numbers of youth offenders. 

The problem in St. Petersburg peaked in 2015 with more than 1,500 auto thefts. This year brought a 20-percent reduction, compared to last year. 

Irby says this incident is a sad reminder their work is not over.

“We won’t save all of the kids, and that's the harsh reality and that's what is so hard about the finality here,” Irby said.

St. Pete police and Rev. Irby say the only good that can come from this incident is a lesson to others: Life is not a video game.

“There’s no reset for these boys,” he added.