Polk County deputies arrested two 17-year-olds, one 16-year-old and one 14-year-old in South Lakeland on Monday after fleeing from a stolen car.
Around 1:30 p.m., the Sheriff's Office received a call regarding four black males who were seen wearing socks on their hands and checking door handles of cars in the area of Tierra Vista Circle. A blue Nissan was reported stolen out of Lakeland.
Deputies began circulating the area and saw the stolen car enter the parking lot at George Jenkins High School. When deputies attempted to perform a traffic stop the vehicle drove off to the eastern end of the parking lot before all four males jumped out and ran away.
One of the suspects was taken into custody shortly after entering the school gym. He is on active probation for Fraud and Providing False Information to Law Enforcement.
The three other juveniles ran east through the school grounds and entered into the fenced in area of a water tower located on Gus Stewart Road.
Deputies ran after the teens, yelling commands like, "Sheriff's Office" and "stop running".
All three suspects ignored the commands and continued to run.
Officers set up a perimeter and were able to apprehend two of the remaining three juveniles.
One suspect was found hiding under a boat in the back yard of a nearby residence the other suspect located was found hiding in a trash can underneath the roofed in portion of a nearby home.
The fourth suspect was arrested on Tuesday.
"This is more evidence of a broken juvenile justice system. Instead of being in school, these kids were out stealing with no apparent fear of consequences," said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd.
The juveniles told deputies they knew the car they were riding was stolen. Detectives determined the teens were driving around in the stolen car, checking vehicle door handles to steal items.
A cell phone located on one of the teens showed several pictures and a video showing the teens riding in the stolen vehicle and posing with the stolen vehicle, according to deputies.
The PCSO investigation is ongoing in an attempt to identify any additional potential victims.
The 14-year-old has been charged with Burglary of an unoccupied conveyance, conspiracy to commit grand theft motor vehicle, trespass, criminal mischief, possession of burglary tools with intent to use, no valid driver's license, resisting a law enforcement officer without violence, trespass on school grounds, conspiracy to commit burglary conveyance, fleeing to elude law enforcement, petit theft, disrupting a school function.
The 16-year-old has been charged with Trespass Property other than a Structure/Conveyance-2 counts, Grand Theft Motor Vehicle, Criminal Mischief-2 counts, Possession of Burglary tools, Burglary unoccupied conveyance unarmed, Conspiracy to commit Grand Theft Auto, Conspiracy to commit Burglary Conveyance, Resisting a law enforcement officer without violence, Trespass on School Grounds, and Petit Theft.
The first 17-year-old has been charged with Criminal Mischief (2 counts), Trespass Structure/Conveyance, Burglary unoccupied conveyance unarmed, Conspiracy to commit Grand Theft Auto, Conspiracy to commit Burglary Conveyance, Unarmed Burglary-Occupied Burglary; Grand Theft Motor Vehicle, Possession of Burglary tools, Trespass on School Grounds, Resisting a law enforcement officer without violence, and Petit Theft.
The second 17-year-old has been charged with Grand Theft Motor Vehicle, Possession of Burglary tools, Criminal Mischief-2 counts, Resist a law enforcement officer without violence, Trespass on School Grounds, Conspiracy to commit Grand Theft Auto, Conspiracy to commit Burglary Conveyance, Petit Theft, Burglary unoccupied conveyance unarmed, and Violation of Probation.
All four juveniles were transported to Juvenile Assessment Center without incident.
George Jenkins High School was placed on heightened security during the incident.
And numbers go to show, auto thefts in Polk County are only going up.
In 2015 PCSO reported 578 auto thefts and even more in 2016 with 634 vehicles stolen. So far in 2017, 273 vehicles have be taken through the month of July.
In 2015, kids under 18 haven stolen 80 of those car.
PCSO says the repeat juvenile offenders is a real issue.
With these teenagers, specifically, it’s evident the DJJ is not working for them.