YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Police say twice this week they arrested juvenile suspects who were caught breaking into cars, and they were refused entry by the Mahoning County Juvenile Justice Center.

Reports said a 14-year-old boy was taken into custody at about 12:10 a.m. Thursday after he was caught trying to break into a Kia parked in front of a home in the 1500 block of Wakefield Avenue on the South Side.

The boy was charged with grand theft of a motor vehicle, a fourth-degree felony.

Wes Skeels, court administrator for the county juvenile court, said there is no record of anyone at the JJC having any interactions with Youngstown police overnight.

After getting a comment from Skeels on that incident, WKBN also learned of an incident Monday evening when a 16-year-old boy was taken to JJC after he was accused of trying to break into a car in the 3400 block of Ambert Street, also on the South Side. Police reports said the boy was denied entry into the JJC.

A message was left for Skeels on that incident as well.

Instead of being booked into the JJC on felony grand theft auto and other charges, the teens were released to relatives with a summons after they were refused entry into the JJC.

The citations come as the city is grappling with a surge in stolen cars this year. According to statistics supplied by the department, police took reports in 2022 for 270 stolen cars or attempts to steal a car. As of Thursday, the city has already taken reports for 263 stolen or attempted stolen cars.

Capt. Jason Simon expressed his frustration with the issue.

“When we have the very rare opportunity in law enforcement to catch someone in the actor of stealing a motor vehicle, our hope is that they would be incarcerated to protect the safety of the public,” Simon said.

In July alone, police took 68 of those reports.

Lt. Mohammad Awad of the Detective Bureau said it is very frustrating to catch people committing crimes but then to let them go because they won’t be detained.

In a statement, Awad said: “I am very frustrated for the citizens of Youngstown. As you can see by our homicide numbers, many of our victims and suspects are juveniles. We have seen an increase in crime involving juveniles while seeing a decrease in crime involving adults. These kids are not just committing auto theft, they are doing armed home invasions and other serious crime.”

“We are making the arrests and completing the investigations. After that, it’s out of our hands.”

On Wakefield Avenue, police were called for a report of three people trying to break into a Kia parked on the street. The three people were all dressed in black and an officer who pulled up quickly detained one person who is 14, and another person who is 15 was caught in a nearby driveway. Reports do not list a third person being caught.

A window on the Kia was broken and three screwdrivers were found on the driver’s side floorboard, reports said. Police first called the JJC to tell them they were bringing the 14-year-old, but reports said none of their calls were answered, so an officer took the boy there but JJC would not take him.

Skeels said all interactions with Youngstown police have to be documented, and when he checked there, were no documented interactions with police overnight.

Reports noted that the phones both boys had were ringing constantly and the screenshot on the 15-year-old’s phone was of an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle that looked exactly like one taken from a home on Ambert Street where a witness tried to stop the attempted car theft Monday.

Reports said police were called there about 9:55 p.m. for a report of a fight with a weapon that stemmed from an attempted burglary. When police arrived, the caller was holding a 16-year-old boy at gunpoint in the back seat of a neighbor’s car.

The caller told police that he was across the street at his home playing video games when he heard glass breaking. He looked outside and saw a person running away, grabbed his AR-15, and went outside and held the other person at gunpoint until police arrived.

The boy who was caught and taken into custody told police he was on his way to a friend’s home when someone in a passing car stopped him and asked him to get inside. That person then pulled a gun on the boy and told him there was a car on Ambert Street they could steal because the boy owed him $40 and didn’t have it.

The boy told police he was dropped off at the corner and tried several times to get the car started but could not, so the other person got out of his car and came over and showed him a video on how to steal the car. The boy then broke the back window to get inside, which is when the 911 caller showed up with his rifle.

The car was a Kia and it was parked in a driveway, reports said.

The boy was refused entry to JJC so he was taken to his home and released to his parents, reports said.

About 10:20 p.m. Tuesday, police were called back to the witness’ home by a man who said he was watching two children inside when two people dressed in black and wearing masks came inside and pointed guns at him.

The two made him get on the ground and took a video game system and the AR-15, reports said.

Reports said the homeowner told police he believed the same people who tried to take his neighbor’s car the night before were the people who broke into his house.

Police were also called to the same block of Ambert Street about 4:10 a.m. July 27, when a man discovered someone tried to break into his Hyundai, which was parked in the street. Reports said the window was broken out and the steering column was tampered with, but the car was not able to be stolen.

Gerry Ricciutti contributed to this report.