ST. PETERSBURG – Car theft is a problem in the Tampa Bay area. Thursday, the Chief of Police for the St. Petersburg Police Department said the number of car thefts is down this quarter compared to the same time last year.

The city says there was a 1.1% decrease in car thefts. It might not seem like a big difference, but Chief Anthony Holloway says it is. The first quarter of the year, auto theft was up about 16.2%. The new numbers are also 17.4% lower than the city’s five-year average.

The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office and St. Petersburg police say all too often kids are stealing cars and creating dangerous situations. In March of 2016, three teenage girls from St. Petersburg died after crashing a stolen car into a cemetery pond. This past August, three teenagers died after wrecking two stolen cars in Pinellas County.

Chief Holloway told 10News the department’s made it a priority to stop car theft. He says the department is using both education and enforcement.

“These kids are taking cars that people are giving them easy access to. Again, either key FOBs or keys that they’re leaving or spare keys, so the kids can drive off in them. It’s not just a St. Pete problem. It’s a countywide problem. And the best part about it, we’re doing a countywide approach. We’ve got everybody in law enforcement working together to solve this problem,” said Chief Holloway.

In addition to reminding the public to lock their car doors and keep their keys, FOBs & spare keys with them and not in the car, the department is also finding those people stealing cars and making arrests.

Chief Holloway credits the new Habitual Offender Monitoring Enforcement program also known as H.O.M.E. Every night, a team of officers makes sure that repeat juvenile offenders are doing what they’re supposed to by following the judges’ rulings.

He also says his department, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, and other law enforcement are cracking down through the Violent Crime Task Force.

In the past, the county has criticized the city for pushing crime into other areas of the county. 10News reached out to the Sheriff's Office to find out if they're also seeing a decrease in the number of car thefts. They say they will analyze that data and provide it to 10News by Friday.

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