Several juvenile facilities are in Bay area neighborhoods

12:18 AM, Aug 21, 2013   |    comments
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Video: Several juvenile facilities are in Bay area neighborhoods

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TAMPA, Florida -- It's been three days since a riot at a Polk County juvenile facility. Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said it might not have happened if the facility staff was properly armed.

The riot broke out at the Avon Park Youth Academy, which is run by the private company G4S. They also run 23 other youth facilities across Florida, including many right here in the Bay area, and some of them are in the middle of neighborhoods.

Sheriff Grady Judd explained how volatile the situation became at the facility, which houses male offenders between the ages of 16 and 19. He said, "They threw televisions through windows."

It all started over an argument over a basketball game. Tempers flared and a fist fight turned into a full blown riot when one team didn't turn over noodle soup they were playing for. Sheriff Judd said residents trashed the place, and the guards and staff members overseeing the juveniles were overwhelmed.

In one of the 911 calls, a man can be heard saying, "It's a full blown riot out here. We need someone out here. We need everyone we can get."

Judd criticized a Department of Juvenile Justice rule that bans G4S staff members from having pepper spray and tasers, which he said could have squashed the violence.

10 News has learned there are nine other juvenile justice facilities scattered across the Bay area operated by G4S. There are four alone in a location on East Columbus Drive in Tampa near Falkenburg Road. That facility is right across the street from a Head Start facility.

Riverside Academy is located in the Seminole Heights area in the middle of a neighborhood. If guards couldn't stop the riot in Avon Park, some wonder if guards at other facilities could stop one.

PHOTOS: Nearly 50 photos show full damage from riot

Marco Perilla has lived near Riverside Academy for 30 years, where he raised his two kids. He said, "We didn't know what kind of crimes they'd committed or anything, but they always kept to themselves and really no problems at all."

By phone, the vice president of the Seminole Heights Civic Association told us it's not a subject they've discussed.

Back at the Avon Park facility, Department of Juvenile Justice secretary Wansley Walters toured the damage, saying she stands by the rule that as an "industry standard" staff members are not to be armed with pepper spray and tasers to break up fights, even though it took some 150 law enforcement officers over a course of four hours to get the situation there under control.

Sheriff Judd said,"They were hurling stuff at our deputies and our law enforcement officers over the fence. They were setting fires."

Several of the young offenders were hurt in the riot. One suffered a broken leg. 

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