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St. Pete Police: Juvenile crime is down thanks to new task force | Crime

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St. Pete Police: Juvenile crime is down thanks to new task force
Crime
St. Pete Police:  Juvenile crime is down thanks to new task force

St. Pete, Fl- The teenager who St. Petersburg Police arrested for the murder of Officer David Crawford is no stranger to them.

A new police unit had been mentoring Nicholas Lindsay along with a hundred other young felons. 

While Lindsay got away, others found a new way to live.

The officers in the COTA Task Force do more than just knock on doors - they build relationships with families.

The newly-formed COTA stands for Career Offender Tracking Apprehension.  It is a special unit that focuses on felons, particularly juveniles.

On Thursday, our cameras caught one teenager who was already on probation for burglary and cocaine charges, get picked up by COTA officers for violating his probation because he missed his curfew.

His own mother called COTA when she saw him leave.

Sergeant Patrice Hubbard is one of the heads of the unit and says, parents are key.  "A lot of the parents feel like they are in this alone - that the judicial system is there to punish but we aren't there to punish.  We are there to say let's help them get back on track," Hubbard said.

Mother Daphne Davis couldn't agree more.  Her 17-year-old son Javaris has weapons and drug charges but he hasn't violated his probation.

"It is very helpful to me because he straightens up.  He does what he supposed to do.  They [COTA officers] just really made a big influence in his life," said Davis.

In fact, Javaris is changing his life.  "He has made a whole 360 turnaround since he got in trouble last time," said Davis adding, "Actually I'm proud of him."

Months later, Javaris is a single dad, raising an infant son in his mother's house.  He doesn't mind when the COTA officers come around.  "They ain't coming down on me," said Javaris.

St. Pete Police say the task fore has definitely decreased juvenile crime in the past year and the statistics prove it.  Auto theft which is the number one juvenile crime is down 45%.

COTA has been so successful, the police department has moved its entire gang unit into the task force.

"This is the first time that I've seen something so proactive that on paper can show the numbers that it does work," said Hubbard.

The hope is that turning around troubled teens will make the overall community a safer place.

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