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Agent offers proposal to control youth uprisings

Sam Jones wants to put an end to the illegally opened fire hydrants gushing with precious city water, and he is eager to curb rock-throwing at law enforcement officers. Jones wants change _ now.

Tuesday, at a meeting of the Inter-Agency Workshop, a Tampa-area race relations board, he offered his solution for ending a rash of disturbances recently in several Tampa neighborhoods.

The group, which met at the West Tampa Neighborhood Center, primarily discussed preventive programs for youths. Jones agreed that the programs are important, but he said enforcing the law also would reduce the incidents.

"You're going to have that element out there that's going to raise hell anyway," said Jones, a special agent with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. "We can concentrate on prevention but at the same time put emphasis on law enforcement."

Several others at the meeting _ attended by 17 representatives from the city, the School Board, law enforcement agencies, religious and ethnic associations and businesses _ agreed.

"All the good kids are suffering as well because you have a few kids who are causing the problems," Capt. Bennie Holder of the Tampa Police Department said after the meeting. "We need the programs, ... but law enforcement is important."

Last month, the race-relations board formed a youth violence committee to focus on some of the problems. In the last two months, at least six rock-and-bottle throwing incidents _ two involving open hydrants _ have erupted in several east Tampa neighborhoods. In early May, four people who were driving through the area were pulled from their cars and beaten.

Sgt. Carl Davis of the Tampa Police Department said two 16 year olds and two adults were arrested this month because of incidents involving open fire hydrants and rock-throwing.

Since then, many government officials and agencies have pointed to special youth programs for inner-city children as a solution to some of the problems. Included are the Tampa Housing Authority's Youth Sports and Cultural Program formed two years ago. The city offers other programs through the Police Athletic League, the YMCA and the Boys and Girls Clubs.

In addition, the Children's Board of Hillsborough County is financing a $30,000 summer program called "Project Chill Out," designed to provide art activities and conflict-resolution classes to youths ages 9 to 12.

Bobby Bowden, director of community affairs for the city and the board's chairman, said he expects the problems to subside because the Cyrus Green swimming pool off Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard was opened Saturday.

Said Bowden, "Hopefully that's behind us now."