From the Tampa Bay Times online, a Clearwater couple were arrested on multiple charges after a video of the crime sparked a city-wide outrage…
It started with the video. The video, which shows a couple who appear to encourage a young boy to steal multiple items from an employee breakroom and a store was released to the public by the police. The police were hoping for a tip to identify the suspects and a few days ago they got one.
On Tuesday evening the Clearwater police department arrested the couple from the video. 31-year-old Julio Torres and 37-year-old Janet Soto were charged with multiple offenses including child neglect, burglary, grand theft and credit card fraud. In addition, Mr. Torres was also charged with a violation of probation.
On Tuesday police received a tip from someone who saw the video and recognized the suspects. At first glance, the evidence does not look good for the two of them. The police arrested the couple in a St. Pete bowling alley and seized their car. Inside the car police found a large amount of cash as well as numerous stolen purses and credit cards.
The suspects were with their two children, a 10-year-old boy that was seen in the video and a two-year-old daughter. Both children were placed in the custody of the Florida Department of Children and Families.
The couple and the boy were first noticed in a surveillance video at a Ron Jon surf shop in Clearwater last Sunday. They were seen hiding stolen goods in a baby stroller. They also entered a nearby Hooters restaurant where they took purses from a back room.
As of this writing the couple are still being held in the Pinellas County jail.
While the other crimes all seem self-explanatory, child neglect is a different issue. Child neglect is found under Florida Statute 827.03 and reads in part:
“827.03 Abuse, aggravated abuse, and neglect of a child; penalties.–
(1) DEFINITIONS.–As used in this section, the term:
(e) ”Neglect of a child” means:
1. A caregiver’s failure or omission to provide a child with the care, supervision, and services necessary to maintain the child’s physical and mental health, including, but not limited to, food, nutrition, clothing, shelter, supervision, medicine, and medical services that a prudent person would consider essential for the well-being of the child; or
2. A caregiver’s failure to make a reasonable effort to protect a child from abuse, neglect, or exploitation by another person.
Except as otherwise provided in this section, neglect of a child may be based on repeated conduct or on a single incident or omission that results in, or could reasonably be expected to result in, serious physical or mental injury, or a substantial risk of death, to a child.
(b) A person who willfully or by culpable negligence neglects a child and in so doing causes great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement to the child commits a felony of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.
(d) A person who willfully or by culpable negligence neglects a child without causing great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement to the child commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.”
Based on the facts above and if true, the parents have committed a third-degree felony. The act of encouraging the child to commit crimes may even rise to the crime of child abuse if the court determines mental abuse or harm of the child took place.