Third juvenile riot raises security concerns

Tampa, Florida -- Police say two dozen teens, the entire population at Les Peters Academy, played a role in a riot at the juvenile detention center early Monday.

Now, seven of them face felony charges and a worker is recovering from minor injuries.

The riot unfolded just before 1 a.m. at the residential facility on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard near Dale Mabry Highway.

It makes three riots now at state juvenile facilities in the Bay area all run by the same security company: G4S.

Changes were made back in 2013 after a riot at the Avon Park Youth Academy, but with another riot in January at East-Lake Academy and then the most recent riot it raises concerns if G4S is doing enough to secure its facilities and keep the community safe.

STATE REVIEW:How did Les Peters Academy do in review?

G4S is contracted by the state. In a statement, Digital and External Media Manager Monica Lewman-Garcia says, "The safety and security of the youth entrusted to our care and our staff is our highest priority. We are investigating the incident to ensure that appropriate measures are in place to prevent a recurrence."

Tampa police spokeswoman Andrea Davis say the teens housed at the residential juvenile detention center were angry over how they were being punished and rallied to riot.

"They had apparently been planning this for a few hours, and once someone overheard them talking about it they contacted us," says Davis. "Once we arrived there were about 24 juveniles who had been tearing things off of walls punching holes in the walls knocking down chairs and tables throwing food from the kitchen."

Security company G4S tells 10 News that the youth care workers are not armed with pepper spray or guns. It took 15 police officers to help calm the chaos and get the majority of teens back to their rooms, but seven continued to lash out. "They continue to cause the riots, and also one of them was also charged with battering the detention facility (worker). He spat at her and pushed her," Davis says.

Following 10 News crime guidelines, 10 News is not naming the 7 teens who are now facing felony charges.

LEARN MORE:Read WTSP crime guidelines

One neighbor, America Peltier, says the center does make her nervous. "They get out and start killing everybody, yeah I would be concerned. They don't need to hurt anybody. They did the wrong, and they need to pay for it," says Peltier.

After the 2013 riot at the G4S-run Avon Park Youth Academy, the Department of Juvenile Justice cut the number of beds to reduce the staff to teen ratio and added security cameras.

After girls rioted at East-Lake Academy in January 2015, also run by G4S, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office recommended making surveillance cameras more tamper-proof.

Neighbors hope changes will now be made at Les Peters Academy, too. "We make good choices, and we made bad choices. They're in there for a reason, but hopefully they learn from it," says one neighbor.

Tampa police records show since 2011, officers have been called out to Les Peters Academy 42 times.

In a statement, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary, Christina K. Daly tells 10 News:

The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) was notified by its contracted provider, G4S, of an incident early Monday morning at Les Peters Academy, which required assistance from the Tampa Police Department. Our priority is keeping youth and staff safe in all of our programs and there are occasions when it is necessary to request the assistance of law enforcement.

No serious injuries were reported. We appreciate the police department for their response and help in resolving Monday's incident.

DJJ's Office of Inspector General will be conducting a thorough investigation to determine whether all policies and procedures were followed in relation to the event at Les Peters Academy.

This is the statement from Monica Lewman-Garcia of G4S:

"The incident Les Peters Academy was an isolated incident and does not reflect a pattern of events. G4S juvenile justice programs deal with at-risk and difficult youth. With very few exceptions, the adolescents housed in G4S juvenile justice programs are released back into the community after they have satisfied the terms of their commitment. G4S has been providing safe, secure and effective treatment of offending and at-risk youth since 1998. Where we find problems, we address them and the resulting recommendations are implemented."


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