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Community leaders want St. Petersburg's youths occupied over the summer

ST. PETERSBURG — Teens are the focus of a new partnership of educators, police officers, ministers, residents and young people announced Thursday on the steps of City Hall.

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference's new crime prevention task force has three goals: make sure youths have summer jobs; make sure they have summer programs; and crack the "no snitching" code that keeps young people from cooperating with police.

SCLC president Sevell C. Brown III said he's heard from many teens worried about the distressed economy once school ends.

A lack of summer jobs and programs means bored teens, Brown said, and that can only lead to trouble.

"The one thing they're saying is 'Mr. Brown, will we have jobs for the summer? Will we have programs that we can go to this summer?' " he said. "And the parents likewise want to know, 'Will the programs be cut back and gutted by the bottoming out of the economy?' "

Pinellas County school superintendent Julie Janssen and St. Petersburg police Chief Chuck Harmon were among those at Thursday's announcement.

Brown said the task force will likely meet May 9 to discuss how schools, the police, neighborhood associations and churches can help teens this summer.

This is just the latest burst of community activism in the wake of last month's murder of 8-year-old Paris Whitehead-Hamilton. Two 18-year-olds and one 19-year-old were arrested in connection with her death.

Police are still looking for the public's help in the case. That's why on Sunday, May 17, said Brown, preachers across the city will condemn the code of "no snitching" from their pulpits.

And the task force hopes to get teens to start helping police by dialing these two numbers: the anonymous tip line at (727) 892-5000 and the anonymous text tip line at (727) 420-8911.

"We need to get away from this notion that snitching is bad, that it's not cool to tell on someone," said retired Pinellas school administrator Lewis Williams. "Hopefully, our young people are beginning to see this because of what happened to Paris."

Jamal Thalji can be reached at thalji@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8472.

Community leaders want St. Petersburg's youths occupied over the summer 04/30/09 [Last modified: Friday, May 1, 2009 12:26am]
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