In recent years, Hillsborough County had been "called out" by local agencies for being behind other counties in the state when it comes to helping troubled youth. That’s according to State Attorney Andrew Warren.

They haven't had a stable program until now.

In August, Warren launched the Juvenile Arrest Avoidance Program. (JAAP).

Instead of going to jail, troubled youth will be given a citation.

“So, we are holding these young people accountable for first-time mistakes without saddling them with an arrest or conviction record that can make it harder for them to get a job,” says Warren.

Hillsborough County had received failing grades, prior to this new program, from independent agencies for underutilizing civil citation programs, which led to worse outcomes for juveniles and wasted taxpayer resources.

During the first three months, 150 citations were given to youth. Warren expects 1,000 by the end of its first year.

Here are the advantages to the program, per the county:

  • Youth are held accountable for their actions and receive immediate intervention
  • No formal arrest record
  • Youth receive an evidence-based risk assessment and are sanctioned to targeted and appropriate interventions, improving youth outcomes
  • Youth "pay back" the community
  • Lower referrals to Juvenile Justice System for minor crimes
  • Allows youth to get the services they need outside of the formal criminal justice system

It also uses less taxpayer money. It cost $50,000 to prosecute a juvenile. It cost the same amount of money to incarcerate one for a year.

This program cost $4,000 per juvenile to help with anything from anger management, drug treatment, to doing community service.

Remember: it’s only for first-time offenders.

Across the bridge in Pinellas County, Jabaar Edmond is also helping youth.

He started the nonprofit Community Development and Training Center, which connects youth with programs, services and resources that help them overcome barriers to their growth, development and overall well-being.

“I've learned that second chances are very important because at some point we have needed or have gotten a second chance,” says Edmond.

He also taken on another challenge.

We’ve told you about the "epidemic" of teens stealing cars in Tampa Bay. Edmond decided to start another non-profit called “JoyRyde.”

“They want to drive and they want to joyride, so we put it together with that in mind. But instead of just driving and joyriding ,we're also going to help get them a driver’s license to give them a path toward having something,” he says.

RELATED: Read the project proposal for JoyRyde

Edmond hopes that local and state leaders help in this effort to start another non-profit to help youth.

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