4 teens in stolen van nearly ram officer's patrol car

Van was left unlocked with keys inside
Posted at 5:00 AM, Feb 01, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-01 19:43:01-05

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Four teens were arrested after they stole a van and led police on a chase, according to St. Pete Police. All four teens were 16 and under, and three of them were girls.

It happened just before 3 a.m. Thursday, when officers spotted a van driving erratically with no headlights. They tried to pull it over, and that's when the 15-year-old driver tried to ram them, constituting aggravated assault, according to St. Pete Police.

At that point, SPPD engaged in a pursuit, chasing the teens into the Riviera Bay Neighborhood. Surveillance video shows one officer driving so fast, all four tires lifted off the ground after going over a speed bump.

The chase ended at the dead end on 1st Street N. and 94th Avenue N. in St. Pete.

Four teens were taken into custody. The driver of the van was 15 years old and she did not have a driver's license.

Officers made contact with the owner of the van, Bill Zisa who admitted he left the van unlocked and with the keys inside under one of the floor mats. 

When he got his car back early Thursday morning, the passenger side mirror was broken and there were scratches on the bumper. The inside also reeked of marijuana, according to Zisa. 

Surveillance video shows the 15 and 16 year olds running right over the concrete parking barricades at Gateway Baptist Church. Moments later, they narrowly miss ramming into a police officer inside his cruiser. 

The chase ended at the bottom of Scott Schlather's driveway in a Riviera Bay cul-de-sac.

"The problem with the kids in the area is they know they can come check the cars every night. my wife and i have a routine where we walk our dogs and then make sure all the cars are locked," Schlather said.

St Pete Police have launched several new programs to help curb the number of teenagers stealing cars. They’re keeping closer tabs on repeat offenders and are working with local judges to get tougher sentences, but they insist until everyone locks their car doors, this dangerous problem will continue. 

The number of cars stolen in St Pete is actually down 10 percent year to year, and 18.7 percent over the past 5 years. Yet,  detectives say we could cut that number in half simply by everyone locking their doors. 

Luckily, nobody was hurt, but neighbors worry next time they won't be as lucky.