ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — With summer comes lots of free time for teens, and if they are not involved in constructive activities, leaders say there’s an opportunity for crime.

"If they are idle they are very subject to the temptation of negative activity,” said Rev. Kenneth Irby of the St. Pete’s “Not My Son” campaign.

To cut down on criminal activity over the summer, the city of St. Petersburg launched an effort a few years back to help prevent crime by connecting teens, particularly young African American teens, with programs to participate in over the summer.

“You can't simply tell a young person don't do crime or don't do drugs,” Father Stephan Brown of St. Joseph Catholic Church on 22nd Avenue South said. “The activities are important because it gives them another option.”

Father Brown said he opens the doors of his church to the young men in his community and provides the space for positive activities throughout the summer. His church is also home base for Friday’s “Not My Son” canvassing that will start at 6 p.m. and run every week throughout the summer.

“Wherever you go, there's peer pressure,”  Morris McCray, a 17-year-old recent graduate said. Morris is a “Not My Son” participant heading to the Marine Corps in July.

His brother, Jaquez, said he’s grateful for the direction leaders of the program have given him. 

“I didn't have that much guidance,” Jaquez said. “My father, when I was around 10 years old, that was my first time seeing him in my life.”

The brothers both agreed staying occupied with positive activities helped them stay on the right track, especially in the Casler Heights neighborhood.

“Casler Heights seems to be one of those neighborhoods that was forgotten,”  Father Brown said.

For more information on the “Not My Son” campaign, which is an extension of former President Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative, click here.

Emerald Morrow is a reporter with 10News WTSP. Like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter. You can also email her at emorrow@wtsp.com

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