St. Pete leaders push for solutions to teen violence

Community leaders in St. Pete said they want to see more safe-havens for the city's youth, after two more teenagers were shot - and one of them killed - in a drive-by shooting Saturday night. 

St. Pete police said officers found Jaquez Jackson,17, and an unidentified 17-year-old male in an alley next to a home on 3rd Avenue South Saturday night. 

The teens were shot when a car pulled up next to their vehicle and started firing, according to police. Jackson was killed.

His death comes after a string of teen shootings in St. Pete over the past six weeks. City leaders say crime is down across the board, with the exception of auto theft, but with so many murders in such a short span of time, they must address the issue now.

"Statistics aren’t much comfort to the friends and family," said Benjamin Kirby, Communications Director for Mayor Rick Kriseman's Office.

Mayor Kriseman and about 200 community leaders and residents walked city streets in an anti-violence march a week prior.

The mayor called for residents in all parts of the city to speak out against violence and work with police.

Members of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) said giving teens alternatives to being on the streets could help stop the violence.

“You have them as young as grade school kids walking around the neighborhoods aimlessly doing absolutely nothing, and you know how the old saying goes, 'If you walk around town doing absolutely nothing, you’ll find something to do,'” said Jeffrey Copland, executive director for SCLC.

Members of the SCLC want to see the Midtown Youth Center in the Jordan Park Community reopened. The building has sat vacant for about four years since St Pete College purchased it.

“We had wrestling matches, we had basketball tournaments, I mean we had Derrick Brooks and his kids come here," said Copeland. "If you give [teens] books, games and educational situations without guns, you have a better situation sometimes."

It's unclear how or when St. Pete College plans to use the building. Due to the winter break, attempts to contact university officials were not immediately answered.

Mayor Kriseman's Office said they are working to expand their summer youth employment program, giving teens jobs with community partners when they are out of school.

More than 400 youth enrolled in the program in 2015, approximately 200 more than the previous year. City leaders want to continue expanding the program in 2016.