Solutions-driven study underway on Pinellas teen auto theft epidemic

For immediate release

Contact: Dewey Caruthers
P: 813-294-5612 /


St. Petersburg-based think tank and national public health research organization will outline potential solutions for reducing teen auto thefts while addressing root causes.

ST PETERSBURG, Fla. (November 27, 2017)-A solutions-driven study is underway to address Pinellas County’s teen auto theft epidemic, with the goal of combining national best practices with local knowledge gained from law enforcement officials, community leaders, and Pinellas youth who’ve been involved in thefts.

The study is part of a six-month process that began in October and will conclude in March, resulting in data-supported solutions for municipal and elected officials to consider on the local and state levels.

The effort is being led by The Caruthers Institute, St. Petersburg-based nonprofit, nonpartisan thinktank; and Human Impact Partners, a national nonprofit public health research firm. The short-term goal is to reduce the number of teen auto thefts, while the long-term goal is to address root causes of repeat auto theft with a focus on the failures of policies and practices in the juvenile, criminal, social, and health systems that influence behaviors.

Pinellas County has a teen auto theft problem that has been called an “epidemic”. Tampa Bay Times research revealed that in 2015 there were nearly 500 arrests for juvenile auto theft, more than any other county in Florida and outpacing much larger counties like Los Angeles, California. Additionally, research by the Tampa Bay Times showed that teen auto thefts are also on the rise throughout the state, with youth auto arrests in Florida increasing from 2,307 in 2015 to 2,810 in 2016.

“We know we can’t arrest our way out of this problem, and we know the current approach isn’t working,” said Dewey Caruthers of the Caruthers Institute, who has led the formation of a Community Advisory Group of reform-minded experts and leaders as part of the effort.

The study will bring the best thinking in the U.S. to Pinellas County through interviews with more than 30 national, state and local experts, as well as research on best practices and successful models around the country. The process will also include participation by youth who have been arrested for auto theft, along with their families.

The study’s authors will outline solutions for local and state officials to consider in a series of three convenings. The study and convenings will emphasize data-supported public health approaches to bring change to how the problem is viewed and addressed.

“Health solutions to what have typically been thought of as criminal justice ‘problems’ can, and do, create safety. From national research we have found interventions operated by health practitioners and community-based organizations in collaboration with law enforcement that can serve youth and the community well in Pinellas County.” Said Kim Gilhuly, Health Instead of Punishment Director at Human Impact Partners, which has been involved in researching the health impacts of such issues as sentencing reform and youth direct file to the adult system in the past.

Dewey Caruthers of The Caruthers Institute and Kim Gilhuly of Human Impact Partners will lead the reform-minded Community Advisory Board that is in the final stages of formation. Members so far include (in alpha order):

  • Deborrah Brodsky, Project on Accountable Justice
  • Joe Clark, former president of the Eckerd Family Foundation
  • Alyson Clements, National Juvenile Justice Network
  • Marques Hall, speaker and mentor to arrested youth
  • Watson Haynes, Pinellas Urban League
  • Scott McCoy, Southern Poverty Law Center
  • Michelle Morton, ACLU
  • Matt Spence, Community Foundation of Tampa Bay
  • Irene Sullivan, retired Circuit Judge (former juvenile judge in Pinellas County and law professor at Stetson University College of Law)
  • TBD: Law enforcement / natl. expert

“Researching and outlining data-supported solutions for state and local officials represents much-needed action on this issue,” Caruthers said. “A think tank is a community asset and we are excited to be working on potential solutions to this very serious problem, which has been persisting for years.”

For more information about the study, visit

Background on project leaders:

  • The Caruthers Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank based in St. Petersburg, Florida. The institute generates data-driven social change with the help of impact measurement tools provided by the likes of UpMetrics, on juvenile justice and public health issues. That involves conducting research, crafting solutions and leading advocacy for change. Its national and state studies regularly inform decision-making on legislation, policy, and systems changes. The Caruthers Institute’s work has been supported by national and state juvenile justice and children’s organizations, national and state foundations, children’s hospitals, and state and local health agencies.
  • Human Impact Partners is a national nonprofit organization based in Oakland, California that works at the intersection of the public health and criminal justice systems, organizes the National Criminal Justice and Public Health Alliance, and elevates the voices of those most directly impacted to generate better long-term outcomes. HIP’s Health Instead of Punishment program uses public health research, advocacy, and capacity building to make positive change in the criminal justice system.


2017-11-26T19:51:30-05:00 Sunday, November 26, 2017|