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Officials using youth programs to fight juvenile crime

The goal is to provide positive influences and a support system.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — As St. Pete police work to curb juvenile auto thefts and catch suspects involved in those crimes, the city is working on programs to prevent kids from getting into trouble in the first place.

“The most important thing is a lot of them don't have stable environments, or a lot of them are looking for examples they don't have,” said Richard Prince.

Prince works with at-risk youth between the ages of 12 and 24 as part of the Cohort of Champions program, which falls under a city-led initiative called “My Brother’s and Sister’s Keeper.” Other programs include “Not My Son,” which is a grassroots anti-crime awareness campaign targeting young African American males.

Prince says Cohort of Champions is centered around entrepreneurship, job readiness and post-secondary education. 

“It’s a program Mayor (Rick) Kriseman elected to have to prevent some of the things that’s happening, and give them programming to help with their idle time and see them into a successful future,” said Prince.

Monday night’s crash that police say involved a 15-year-old boy and three other young people in a stolen car is exactly the type of crime Prince says he works to prevent. Officials say the car crashed into a police cruiser at a high rate of speed. Fortunately, the sergeant inside was not seriously hurt.

RELATED: St. Petersburg police car involved in crash with stolen vehicle

Prince says in the same way juvenile crimes are often inspired by influence, good decisions can be inspired in those same children if they have the right people leading them. 

“A lot of the time, they're influenced by their peers or a group of people, and it's kind of seen as honorable, the fact that they're even able to take the chance or take the risk to do something like that,” he said. “We try to surround them with a good support system to show them how to get out of that situation.”

For more information on the Cohort of Champions or other city-led youth programs, click here.

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