Palm Coast, FL - Three 14-year-old males are all charged with grand theft of a motor vehicle after stealing a car that had keys left inside of it.
The trio was discovered in the parking lot of James Holland Park by deputies with the Flagler County Sheriff's Office (FCSO) just after 3:00 a.m. on Monday (June 21). When deputies approached the vehicle, they found the three juvenile males, whom News Daytona Beach is concealing the identities of, who at first could not explain how and why they had the vehicle.
After further questioning, the males said they were walking around the area of Cole Place when they found the car, a 2010 Toyota Corolla, that still had keys inside of it. When they located the key, they decided to take the car and drove north on Palm Coast Parkway towards the Island Walk Shoppes when they spotted an FCSO vehicle.
The juveniles added that they turned into the parking lot at Holland Park after they spotted the deputy.
Deputies eventually made contact with the owner of the vehicle who confirmed that it was stolen out of his driveway. While the owner still had keys for the car, they did not remove the valet key or lock the doors.
"This is a great example of deputies observing suspicious activity and investigating," Flagler Sheriff Rick Staly said. "A deputy saw a suspicious car, investigated it, and the result is a stolen car being returned to a resident before they even realized it was stolen!"
Sheriff Staly added that he would like to remind residents to take all valuables and keys out of their vehicles and to lock their doors to help prevent crime.
The three juvenile defendants were processed at the Flagler County Jail. Afterwards, they were released into the custody of their parents by the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), which caught flak from Sheriff Staly.
"DJJ is broken and needs to get tough on these offenders," said Sheriff Staly. "Get tough today so they don’t live a life of crime as an adult. The DJJ catch and immediately release policies are not a deterrent for delinquent behavior."