Crash in Iowa City connected to string of car thefts by teens - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Crash in Iowa City connected to string of car thefts by teens

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Police in Iowa City said a crash that happened on Tuesday involved missing teens from a troubled youth facility -- and that it's the third theft case this month to involve teens from the facility.

Iowa City police say they are no stranger to the Four Oaks facility in Iowa City. This year, police have responded to 39 service calls there and in 2017, close to 200. Police sergeant, Derek Frank, said, however, the trend of car thefts is unusual.

On three occasions in April, juveniles from the facility are accused of stealing a car. The most recent one happening around 2 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon when it ended in a crash near the intersection of Gilbert and College Street. Frank said no injuries resulted from the crash, but substantial damage was done to the vehicles involved. 

Inside the stolen car, Frank said, were two teens from Four Oaks, ages 16 and 17.

On April 18, five Four Oak juveniles, ages 13 to 16, were found in a reportedly stolen car in West Liberty. The car was reportedly taken from Pinto Lane that morning. All five of the teens were charged with first-degree theft.

It was a similar story on April 10, when a car was reported to be stolen from Bon Aire Mobile Home Park in Iowa City around 7:00 a.m. Police said by 11 a.m., five juveniles, ages 10 to 15, from Four Oaks were found inside of it in Muscatine County. The owner of the car declined pressing charges but according to police, many involved were the same from the second theft incident.

According to Four Oaks Community Engagement Officer Brenda Myers, the facility has an emergency youth shelter where they temporarily care for young adults that may have been traumatized, abused, neglected, have mental health issues, or are prone to bad behavior.

In a statement to KWWL, Myers said per the facility's licensing, Four Oaks is not a locked facility and that they are not allowed to physically prevent them from leaving the building.

"In those instances when children leave the building without permission, licensing requires us to inform law enforcement and we notify the youth's family," Myers said. "We also notify the respective DHS or Juvenile Court Services referring staff who makes decisions about whether or not the youth returns to our facility."

Four Oaks is licensed by the Iowa Department of Human Services. Myers said their referrals come from the DHS, juvenile court services and law enforcement.

Charges against the two teens involved in Tuesday's crash are still pending as police continue their investigation.

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