Explore study’s solutions to St. Petersburg’s teen auto theft epidemic

Explore study’s solutions to St. Petersburg’s teen auto theft epidemic

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Dewey Caruthers
Dewey Caruthers signed this petition

Tell St. Petersburg, Florida City Council the status quo isn’t working - please take study’s recommendation to explore its community-driven, data-based solutions to the city’s juvenile auto theft crisis before more are killed or injured.

St. Petersburg is ground zero for a dangerous joyriding crisis that has spread throughout Pinellas County, which has led the state - and at times the nation - in number of juvenile auto theft arrests (estimated 13 people have been killed and many more injured, not to mention the property damage).

A recent study by The Caruthers Institute – a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank – shows dangerous joyriding is a complicated problem where teens steal cars for the thrill, not the money, and consequences like juvenile detention and ankle monitors can only serve to increase street cred.

The study also revealed law enforcement has done all it can and only made a dent in solving the crisis because the city cannot arrest its way out of the problem. Root causes must be addressed to curb this years-long epidemic.

In spite of this overwhelming data and the study’s findings, the city has done nothing to address root causes, with the mayor and some city council members defending the status quo and police department’s ability to handle the entire problem themselves. For instance, Mayor Rick Kriseman says he “has a strong grip on the problem” – all the while in the past five years the city ranks among the worst in the state for kids stealing cars, outpacing larger cities like Miami, Tampa and Jacksonville.

Recommendations call for community-driven solutions that emphasize accountability and rehabilitation for the offender, who must make amends with the victim. Strategies include using “credible messengers” to get through to teen car thieves in ways that police officers never will; and employing “restorative community conferences” that require the thieves to literally face their victims and hear the pain their crimes have caused. These data-supported efforts are national models proven to have much lower rates of recidivism for participants than for teens who went through the standard juvenile system.

This petition is for anyone who lives, works or plays in The Sunshine City – all of whom could be injured or killed by a dangerous joyride.