ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – It’s a dirty little secret among some teens. If you get caught committing a crime, you might not get locked up. But there’s a twist involving the Missouri River.

A recent back-and-forth crime spree involved three St. Louis County teens reportedly stealing cars, which culminated in a shooting. The trio was arrested in on the eastern side of the river, where they were not going to be prosecuted. So, police brought the teens to the other side to get charges filed.

It was on Jan. 9 that the teens ditched a stolen Nissan in Earth City after one member of the group shot a Cracker Barrel employee in St. Charles.

“He was doing nothing more than yelling at some kids that he thought were breaking into his car,” Capt. Ray Floyd, St. Charles Police Department. Floyd said that protocol with minor suspects accused of crimes in multiple counties, is to take them to where they’re from.

“It’s for the convenience of parents and other people involved,” he said. “So, we were basically following the protocol that had been established at that point to take them to St. Louis County and continue our investigation.”

Floyd, on the other hand, claims that the St. Louis County Juvenile Court refused to charge the teens.

“If a case is not there, it’s not there, but with this we felt we definitely had…enough information to move forward,” Floyd said.

FOX 2 first reported on the concerns in October, when we had exclusive access to a meeting in which the north St. Louis County police departments confronted the juvenile courts.

At that meeting, Dellwood’s precinct commander for the North County Police Cooperative said in frustration, “…two or three hours later, (a suspect we arrested is) in Berkeley, caught in another stolen car and my thing was, ‘What the hell is he doing in Berkeley? He should be in juvenile?!’”

It’s not St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell’s fault, either. He raised the alarm in an interview with FOX 2.

Bell discussed his efforts to work with state legislators to improve the system.

“These car theft rings are recruiting young people, because they know young people will not be arrested oftentimes, or will be out quickly,” he said.

In the Cracker Barrel shooting case, police didn’t take no for an answer and took the case to St. Charles County Juvenile Court.

“We felt that we did have enough evidence for criminal charges, and they agreed with us and filed charges based on that case,” Capt. Floyd said.

Dawn Cotton is ecstatic. It was her car stolen to commit violent crimes.

“I want to prosecute them, too. I’m actually set to go get a DNA swab done to see if they can eliminate my DNA from their DNA in the car,” she said.

Because of St. Charles County Juvenile Courts, the three teens—ages 14, 15, and 16—are now locked up on charges of car theft, armed robbery, and assault.