'Safe Summer Block Party' in St. Pete gives youth safe place to have fun on weekends

Juvenile crime tends to rise in the summer, but St. Petersburg city leaders are working on a new solution to keep kids safe and out of trouble. 

The Safe Summer Block Party, co-sponsored by the Tampa Bay Rays, kicked off Friday night at the Lake Vista Recreation Center, located at 1401 62nd Avenue South. 

Kids were shooting hoops, playing video games and dancing to the "Cupid Shuffle."

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"We prefer to have a safe environment for the teens to hang out with us for a couple of hours and parents will know where they're at, so we prefer to be creative and think outside the box and say, 'Hey, we got gyms and gymnasiums. Let's invite them in,'" said Carlos Daniels, the education coordinator for the City of St. Pete.

It's the first time the city hosted the event, and it's for kids between the ages of 12 and 16. In addition to fun activities, the teens were also treated to food and drinks.

All parents or guardians need to do is sign a waiver, so their kids can get in, though they're welcome to stay as well.

"I think it's fun, because it gets kids out of the house," said 14-year-old Iseel Carabello, who showed up to enjoy his favorite sport after football. "Pretty much to play basketball and to make new friends." 

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Some of those friends included officers with the St. Petersburg Police Department who were there to interact with the kids and to influence their trajectory.

"Sometimes it's out of boredom. They have nothing else to do. Their friends are like, ‘Hey, you want to go,' and they go. Bad company, whatever the case may be," said Acting Sgt. Daineka Jones, a community service officer with St. Pete police. "Why not bring them where they can have fun? It can be competitive. They're winning prizes and not pulling on a door handle one of us left open or a car with a key in it." 

Daniels said he hopes within the next week that the program will grow by word of mouth.

"We want to do some creative things with that where it won't just be catered to gymnasium activities. We want to do laser tag events and all that kind of stuff to drive in kids who don't play basketball," said Daniels.

The event will be held from 6:30-10:30 p.m every other Friday until August 9.


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