PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. - Wednesday evening Congressman Charlie Crist held a roundtable discussion with kids about why their peers may be stealing cars.
The discussion lasted more than an hour and a half. It was interrupted by the Uhuru movement. They demanded justice for three teenage girls, who crashed a stolen car into a pond and drowned.
"You want to talk about a crime epidemic. That is the crime that black children in this city have to starve and have to be homeless," the woman shouted to the crowd.
About 15 minutes later the meeting restarted. Congressman Crist spoke with kids, who are involved in their community, and have a number of different aspirations about what may be causing their peers to steal cars in Pinellas County.
Angelique Evans, 15, said she has noticed car thefts among the youth.
"It's on the rise now more than ever. I don't know the cause of it, but I know that it's idle minds. It's gotten terrible," Evans said.
The St. Petersburg Police Chief told ABC Action News tonight, this week alone officers arrested 5 kids for car thefts. He believes tougher punishment for repeat offenders, which starts October 1 statewide, will help.
"That's the first step because again now there (are) consequences. Now we're telling these kids, if you steal a car, you're probably going to be detained," Chief Anthony Holloway said.
The kids told leaders Wednesday night, communities needs more resources, more role models, and children also have to be motivated.
"It was just amazing like see(ing) how like all these kids are like really trying to be something and do something with their lives and not just throw their life away," 17-year-old Deterryon Anderson said.
Congressman Crist said tonight's roundtable discussion will help them find solutions to what is being called an epidemic of young kids stealing cars in Pinellas County.
"It's an important thing for us to try to focus on to try to get a handle on. I don't think there's any silver bullet answer to this," Congressman Crist said.