PINELLAS COUNTY, FL (WFLA) — One Bay area mother knows all too well what teens are capable of doing. Tara Miller’s 15-year-old son stole a car, but after his arrest, he was just sent back home with no consequences.
Because her son Matthew is a runaway, Tara Miller had not seen him in 22 days before Tuesday. She’s believes he may have been out committing more crimes like he’s done in the past. She wants the police or the Department of Juvenile Justice to step in and help, but it’s not happening.
Matthew was arrested last month for stealing a car and burglarizing vehicles in Pinellas County. Tara said she couldn’t believe the Department of Juvenile Justice let him go.
“I was under the impression that stealing cars was illegal and was a crime to which there should be some type of punishment other than being sent home,” said Miller.
Frustrated, she said his crimes have escalated from stealing cell phones to cameras, to now burglarizing neighbors. She feels the department is not helping by giving him a slap on the wrist. Not the reaction you expect from a mother.
“What’s he going to do next?” she said. “He views stealing a vehicle as not really a big deal. That’s not the message the justice system should be sending out to our public, especially our youth.”
Mental Health counselor Alex Chapunoff said Tara’s concerns are valid. Where are the consequences for his actions?
“Sometimes if there’s a consequence to a situation to a choice that was made that wasn’t viable, then there could actually be a lesson,” said Chapunoff.
But Tara said Matthew is not getting a lesson and fears the next crime could be worse. She said her fear is he’s going to be hurt or he’s going to hurt someone else.
Department officials said depending on the crime, sometimes the child is released to the parent, with possibly a follow up court date.
Tara said she only received a letter to have him evaluated. And because he’s a runaway, she can’t keep him home long enough to make the appointment.