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Auto thefts in St. Petersburg drop 1.1 percent from last year

ST. PETERSBURG — St. Petersburg Police announced a drop in auto thefts Thursday, citing a multi-pronged approach for the reason behind the 1.1 percent difference from last year.

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Compared to this time last year, Chief Tony Holloway said police saw drops in earlier months. The number of auto thefts so far in 2017 are 719, down from 727 last year.

“We’re starting to see them go down,” said Holloway, who credited the department’s multi-faceted approach over the past months for the lower auto theft rates.

In April, the Tampa Bay Times published a series detailing the car theft epidemic in Pinellas County. The Times analyzed a year-and-a-half worth of cases, finding that kids were crashing stolen cars every four days.

HOT WHEELS: Kids are driving a car-theft epidemic. It’s a dangerous — sometimes deadly — game.

Following the investigation, U.S. Rep Charlie Crist, D-St. Petersburg, along with other local leaders and politicians, said more needed to be done to prevent kids from stealing cars. The Florida Legislature passed bills that would make it easier to detain chronic offenders for longer periods of time, whether in a detention center or on an electric monitor.

RELATED: U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist on juvenile auto theft: “People are dying because of what’s happening here.”

Among the department’s efforts were greater cooperation with the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, using the property crime unit to handle auto thefts and arrests, focusing on youth gang crime, and weekly reviews of auto theft data trends, according to a news release.

Holloway said the most effective part was spreading information through social media, reminding residents to take their keys out of their cars and to make sure their doors are locked to give thieves one less opportunity.

Additionally, the department monitors habitual offenders, checking in on them every day or every other day, he said.

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