What's the future of a seasoned thief, who is 17?
A St. Petersburg police sergeant recently commented that the auto theft rate, down 44 percent in the first four months of 2008, may go up again when a number of young, repeat offenders are released from Department of Juvenile Justice programs.
The sergeant knew that one of them, Ernest Bernard Jenkins, was recently released. Jenkins, or "E.B." as he is known by detectives, turned 17 a few weeks ago. His rap sheet includes 13 arrests and 18 criminal charges, including eight counts of auto theft, three counts of possessing illegal drugs, strong-arm robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, dealing in stolen property and two violations of probation. I learned last week that E.B. was arrested again, charged with two counts of auto theft and possession of marijuana.
Recalling the conversation makes me wonder if those of us in law enforcement are clairvoyant, or just cynical. According to police reports, E.B. and friends went on a crime spree, first stealing a Dodge Caravan in the downtown area and then using it to rob a stranger at gunpoint in the north part of the city. The robbery victim memorized the tag number on the stolen minivan as it fled.
E.B. and friends stopped to dump the minivan and steal a Dodge pickup, reports said. After being pursued for miles in the truck, they crashed into a tree. Three of the occupants, including E.B., were arrested.
Some of our juvenile criminals "age out" as soon as they turn 18 to avoid stiffer adult sanctions; others grow up later in life. But some of them never change and spend much of their lives in prison. Call me cynical, but E.B. might be one of them.
Bill Proffitt, St. Petersburg Police Department spokesman