In the last week of June, bleeding into the first days of July, 20 cars went missing in the city of St. Petersburg. Nearly all were left unlocked, with keys inside — some still jammed in the ignition — the prime targets of juvenile auto thieves.
Police say it's a reminder of the countywide problem documented by the Tampa Bay Times this spring in "Hot Wheels." The series showed that kids in Pinellas crashed stolen cars once every four days in an 18-month period and were arrested more often for stealing cars than anywhere else in Florida....
Hillsborough commissioners, distressed by a Tampa Bay Times report about the juvenile auto theft epidemic in neighboring Pinellas County, ordered the sheriff to provide a rundown of the crime in the Tampa area on Wednesday.
Commissioner Sandy Murman asked the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office to draw up a report on kids stealing cars and potential solutions. She said deputies have seen some teens come from Pinellas to Hillsborough in stolen cars or to break into cars....
U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist on juvenile auto theft: "People are dying because of what's happening here."05/08/17 Public Safety
ST. PETERSBURG — Local leaders said Monday evening that juveniles stealing cars is the number-one public safety threat in Pinellas County and needs to be addressed immediately.
At a meeting convened by U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-St. Petersburg, city and county officials pointed to the Tampa Bay Times' "Hot Wheels" series, which they said drew attention to the dangerous epidemic and brought the problem to the forefront....
U.S. Congressman Charlie Crist is planning to bring community leaders together to discuss the dangerous car theft epidemic perpetrated by juveniles across Pinellas County.
The mayors of St. Petersburg and Clearwater said they would like to be involved and emphasized the need for action.
Crist said that Pinellas needs to find "a better path forward, to put an end to this madness" after reading "Hot Wheels," a two-part Tampa Bay Times series that documented the dangerous crashes and gunplay that threaten the region when juveniles as young as 10 steal cars left unlocked....
It's bad luck to have your car stolen once. But a handful of drivers across Tampa Bay have been repeat victims. Their cars were recovered, but not the keys. So young thieves came back for another joyride.
One St. Petersburg woman had just gotten her car back when it was taken again two days later, still coated in black fingerprint powder.
When police recovered a car stolen from a hospice patient, the 15-year-old suspect laughed and said, "There's about six more (spare keys) out in the streets." ...
Coming back late from a weekend away at a wedding, Robert Vincent and his wife wanted to go to sleep. They unloaded the car in the driveway of their home in St. Petersburg's Fossil Park neighborhood. Call it haste, or exhaustion, but either Vincent or his wife forgot to lock the Subaru Outback.
In the middle of that November night in 2015, while Vincent and his wife were sleeping off their trip, teenagers found keys in the center console....
04/26/17 Public Safety
How can a system allow dozens of kids to be arrested twice for felony grand theft auto, and still go on to steal another car?
Florida's juvenile justice system has undergone drastic reform in the last decade, shifting from locking up kids to giving them counseling, curfews and community service. Many young car thieves are sent home from court, told to follow the rules and stay out of trouble....
04/26/17 Public Safety
Delivery drivers, don't leave your cars running when you make a stop.
A teen in Clearwater stole a Chevy Impala driven by a Domino's Pizza delivery driver, then ditched the light-up sign and her purse in a trash bin.
One boy ordered Chinese food, then hopped in the delivery driver's Toyota Corolla when the man walked to the door.
"I used to get people like that," said Luis Herring Jr., 16, now in prison for carjacking. He would order food to a random address, from a phone number obtained on a computer app....
A few days after I'd flown across the world, I sent a text message to my parents, telling them I loved them.
We're pretty close, and I knew they were itching for updates. My mom was first on the reply: "Love u too how r u?"
"Done for the day?" she asked. I told her I was. "How was today's hike?"
I thought for a minute. Took a deep, shaky breath to settle myself. Started to sob, anyway....
The Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce is telling residents to lobby the federal government for the release of genetically modified mosquitoes to fight Zika in Pinellas County.
"We cannot afford to have visitors cancel their vacation plans due to the Zika Virus and urge you to provide Pinellas County authorization to combat the Zika Virus immediately," reads a script the chamber is asking locals to read aloud on the phone or paste into an email to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell....
Gather round, young folk, and huddle near the fire, for it's time that I spin a tale for you about ancient times: the mid to late 1990s.
It smells like Teen Spirit, and it sounds like the dial-up tones of connecting to America Online. All your friends are there, but younger, and wearing rhinestone denim and pilling plaid. Rilo Kiley has yet to drop "The Frug." Bill Clinton is having sexual relations with that woman....
Elected leaders from the Tampa Bay area are calling on the federal government to allow them to use genetically modified mosquitoes to fight the spread of Zika in Pinellas County.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has already approved the technology for a trial in Key West, saying it has no significant impact on the environment.
But while the trial has been held up by Key West residents who mistrust genetic modification more than they fear the Zika virus, local leaders say that would not have an impact on their pursuit of this technology....
The federal government on Friday approved a field trial that would release millions of genetically-modified mosquitoes in Key West to eradicate the mosquito that carries Zika.
But British company Oxitec, which has already used its technology to reduce the Aedes aegypti population by 90 to 99 percent in parts of Latin America, is still held up by residents of a Key West suburb who are skeptical of the science....
08/03/16 Human Interest
KEY WEST — There are many scary stories that start with a dark and stormy night, but this isn't one of them. It is the third day of summer in this island city, with its feral chickens and lemon-hued houses and women woohoo-ing by on rented motorcycles. Every bicycle has a basket, every mailbox is a manatee.
"You can't be in a hurry if you're in Key West," the emcee of an outdoor restaurant tells passing tourists. "You're not doing it right if you're in a hurry."...
Despite promises made 16 years ago to settle a Civil Rights-era desegregation lawsuit, the Pinellas County School Board still isn't spending enough money to ensure black children catch up to their peers in reading and math, the plaintiffs said Friday.
The allegation was one of 30 contained in a legal document delivered to the school district — the first step in a process that could land the 50-year-old case back in front of a federal judge....