Connect with us


St. Pete launches new youth crime intervention program

Mark Parker



Police Chief Anthony Holloway (left) and Mayor Ken Welch announced the new Youth Care Program's launch Monday.

A new initiative to help St. Petersburg’s non-violent felony offenders break a cycle of crime will provide wayward teens and their families with individualized support and resources.

Mayor Ken Welch and Police Chief Anthony Holloway announced the Youth Care Program’s launch Monday morning at the department’s headquarters. The unique initiative will offer counseling, educational opportunities, family therapy and financial assistance.

The overarching goal is to redirect at-risk youth before their crimes escalate and provide them with pathways to future success. Welch called the program another “St. Pete innovation.”

“It’s just a way to affect the problem that we haven’t done before, to reach kids that we typically have not been able to reach,” Welch added. “These kids learn bad choices from siblings and folks their age, and that’s the path they stay on. We want to break that cycle.”

A posterboard flanking the podium highlighted the ongoing problem. It showed the arrest record for a teen, 16, who has 44 criminal charges. Many were related to auto thefts.

Holloway said officers arrested two kids, both 13, for stealing a car over the weekend. He also noted that auto thefts were down 35% throughout the first quarter of 2024, which “means detectives have been doing a great job arresting youth.”

“But we can’t arrest our way out of this problem,” Holloway said. “We want to intervene early.”

Police have charged a local teen, 16, with 44 crimes in less than two years.

Holloway stressed that the initiative is not a legal diversion program. Youth will still face the consequences of their actions.

While the Youth Care Program is only open to non-violent felony offenders, city officials believe it will also help curb youth gun violence. Police repeatedly arrested the teen with 44 charges in the 13 months preceding his first crime involving a firearm.

“What’s going on in the family”? Holloway asked rhetorically. “What type of services can we bring that young man, so he doesn’t go back out there and steal a car … he doesn’t graduate up to taking that gun out of that car.”

Former Councilmember Lisa Wheeler-Bowman, the city’s new community impact and safety liaison, will oversee the program. Officers will provide her contact information for teens arrested for non-violent felonies, including auto and property theft and criminal mischief.

Welch said Wheeler-Bowman’s “wealth of experience,” commitment to uplifting youth, lived experiences and community connections make her the “perfect person to lead the initiative.” Holloway credited Welch for directing the police department to “think outside the box” and “always asking us what we can do better.”

Officials initially envisioned interviewing youth offenders and their families within a week of an arrest. Holloway said Wheeler-Bowman stressed the importance of making contact within 72 hours.

She will assess the familial situation and discern solutions to foster a more stable and supportive environment. Welch said many guardians – often single parents or grandparents – become overwhelmed, and Wheeler-Bowman will help “fill that gap in a personal, one-on-one way.”

Welch emphatically stated that he would not consider implementing a curfew. Wheeler-Bowman, who lost a son to gun violence, noted that she has long worked to help youth realize the consequences of their actions. “I am so ready,” she added.

“I am so ready to make a difference in some child’s life, some family’s life.”

A Youth Care Program flow chart.

While accountability is critical to breaking the criminal cycle, Welch said city officials “believe in second chances for our young folks.” He expects record expungement opportunities, and community partners will help foster employability.

Holloway said he would work with judicial officials to identify a positive path forward for participants. He also noted that 78% of misdemeanor offenders who complete the department’s Juvenile Second Chance Program have not committed another crime.

“So, that program is working,” Holloway said. “The program is going to also work in the same way, hopefully. There’s no one who can ever say they never made a mistake in life.”

Gulf Coast Jewish Family and Community Services (JFCS), which oversees the innovative Community Assistance and Life Liaison (CALL) program – will also offer counseling and resources. Dr. Sandra Braham, CEO, said her organization would help provide a continuum of care bolstered by Holloway’s “creative mind” and other city leaders who are “really living it and seeing it every day. You can’t do it all by yourself.”





Continue Reading


  1. Avatar

    Mike C

    June 11, 2024at3:35 pm

    What happened to you do the crime, you do the time?
    My father’s saying, “its easy to get into trouble, try getting out of it”. Unfortunately I had to learn the hard way and spent a summer doing things I didnt want to do because I was irresponsible. That experienced shaped me to understand consequences. Are there consequences in our community?

  2. Avatar


    June 11, 2024at9:35 am

    I hate our local governments world view. I hate it. Stop running this city like coddling mothers and protect us from these criminals. They make their choices. Let them experience the consequences for the damage they do.

  3. Avatar

    S. Rose Smith-Hayes

    June 10, 2024at8:21 pm

    Why 44 times???What was the discipline after the first arrest? Is Pastor Irby not a part of this Initiative???There needs to be some parental accountability. Using our money is not enough.

  4. Avatar

    Ryan Todd

    June 10, 2024at6:40 pm

    Lock the kids up and lock the parents up. Hold everyone accountable for their actions. Government cannot raise kids and turn them into positive citizens.

    Mayor Welch should focus his efforts on something he can affect: these horrible development deals he has screwed up: Moffitt Cancer, Marina, Albert-Whitted, the Municipal Building, and the Trop. Has he worked to get us a better deal form the r Rays? No. He spends his time wasting our time and money.

  5. Avatar


    June 10, 2024at6:33 pm

    It’s an investment, Judy. You will get a positive return on your money by living in a safer, kinder, community. The teen sighted with 44 charges is only being used as an example of how crime can escalate with at-risk youth without effective intervention. “Read again to comprehend.”

  6. Avatar


    June 10, 2024at4:36 pm

    “The unique initiative will offer counseling, educational opportunities, family therapy and financial assistance.”

    Really? And who is paying for all this? Yet another taxpayer-funded program that is going to attempt to achieve what parents cannot or will not do and we can depend on another program to stop young people from their criminal activities because they deserve a….45th chance?

    “Police arrested the young man with 44 charges over 20 times in 13 months before his first crime involving a firearm.”
    So where is he now? Criminal acts with a firearm are NOT non-violent crimes!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

By posting a comment, I have read, understand and agree to the Posting Guidelines.

The St. Pete Catalyst

The Catalyst honors its name by aggregating & curating the sparks that propel the St Pete engine.  It is a modern news platform, powered by community sourced content and augmented with directed coverage.  Bring your news, your perspective and your spark to the St Pete Catalyst and take your seat at the table.

Email us: spark@stpetecatalyst.com

Subscribe for Free

Share with friend

Enter the details of the person you want to share this article with.