Saturday, January 15, 2011

St. Petersburg Police Department Task Force Targets Juvenile Offenders

St. Petersburg Criminal Attorney and Former State Prosecutor Melinda Morris of the Morris Law Firm discusses the how St. Petersburg Police Department’s new task force targets Juvenile offenders.


The St. Petersburg Police Department has recentely created a new unit called the Career Offender Tracking and Apprehension unit (COTA).  The unit is intended to keep track of adult and juvenile offenders who have committed serious crimes and/or those who are at risk to have a repeat offense.

The detectives in the unit regularly check-in on offenders in their homes and create files on each offender.  They check to see that they are abiding by their conditions of release and in the case of juvenile offenders attending school.  By keeping close tabs on these targeted offenders, the St. Petersburg Police Department hopes to cut crime rates and recidivism.

While the unit’s intentions sound favorable, it should be noted that out of the hundreds of arrests in St. Petersburg, the COTA unit recently had 92 adults on its list while there were 175 juvenile offenders - a significant focus on youthful offenders.

Why This Matters To You:

The new St. Petersburg Police unit raises the question of whether or not law enforcement should also have the job of acting as a probation officer for juvenile offenders.  It is much easier for law enforcement to immediately arrest a juvenile offender for a minor violation on the spot given the new duties of the COTA unit, whereas a normal probation officer may be given additional purview to get the youth back into line before an arrest is made on a minor violation.

Further, the detectives in the new unit are building significant dossiers on each child they are tracking including information gathered from schools, peers, and parents.  This information could be used against a juvenile in court.

As well, the ability to arrest juveniles with the new COTA unit could potentially institutionalize a youthful offender before they are given the opportunity to be rehabilitized.

While Pinellas county judges and the State Attorney’s office have endorsed the COTA unit’s mission in theory, it is the job of criminal defense attorneys to defend juveniles who have fallen into the criminal justice system and require as vigorous a defense as local law enforcement is putting into their offensive tactics targeting youthful offenders.

What To Do Next:

If your child has been arrested for a criminal charge, contact a St. Petersburg Juvenile Attorney to discuss possible defenses and specific strategies that may exist in your child’s case.  Call the Morris Law Firm at 727-388-4736 to discuss your child’s case directly with an attorney, or fill out our Online Form to be contacted for a Free Initial Consultation.  The Morris Law Firm can help and has specific knowledge and experience in defending Juvenile Crimes offenders throughout Pinellas County and the entire Tampa Bay, FL Area (St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Tampa, Hillsborough, Pasco, Bradenton, Manatee, and Sarasota).