Repeat juvenile offenders in Pinellas County have created so many problems for law enforcement in the area that nine agencies are now teaming up to try and track the county’s worst of the worst.
“A team of 16 officers and crime analysts from nine different agencies are working together to provide intensive surveillance and monitoring of the county's worst teen re-offenders. They work from a daily list of 125 plus teens with a minimum of five felony arrests and court-ordered home detention with an ankle monitor,” Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said.
ABC Action News reporter Michael Paluska rode along with an officer who just started with the task for a few weeks ago.
“We need to show a presence everywhere,” St. Petersburg Officer Mark Rawsthorne said. “Most of them have been in programs already to try and divert them, but it hasn't worked.”
The goal is to keep these offenders for crimes such as burglaries and grand theft auto cases off the streets. That in turn should lead to less crime, allowing law enforcement to deal with other issues in the community.
Rawsthorne has to track down the offenders on his list. If he can’t, he has to write up an arrest affidavit and track down the teen for violating their probation. A few weeks ago Rawsthorne issued a violation to a teen because he wasn't at home on house arrest. Hours later, that same teen was arrested for breaking into houses.
On our ride along there were some parents Rawsthorne talked to who had no idea where their child was.
“It's always a challenge whether the parents are trying to help them or not,” Rawsthorne said.
The county has dealt with a recent crime spree involving teens stealing cars and breaking into homes. So far, law enforcement has struggled to get a handle on the situation. This is the first step they are taking to do that.
"Habitual juvenile offenders need intensive supervision and consequences when they disobey court sanctions such as probation. HOME ensures both, and will be effective in preventing the chronic offenders from committing new crimes and help keep the community safe," said Sheriff Gualtieri.