Pinellas County faith leaders tackle youth crime

October 23, 2017. WTSP.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — About 500 people, members of churches or temples in Pinellas County, met on Monday to take on a vital new mission: “Youth Concerns.”

The meeting by Faith and Action for Strength Together comes after eight teens died in stolen cars within the past two years, a timeframe in which 800 teenagers were arrested for stealing cars.

“We’re all concerned about this issue,” Mt. Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church Pastor Clark Hazley said. “It’s sad to see young people dying when it could have been prevented.”

Juvenile justice reform seen as help for teen car theft problem

October 23, 2017. Tampa Bay Times.

ST. PETERSBURG — One of Tampa Bay’s largest religious organizations has decided to make reforming the juvenile justice system one of its top priorities for next year.

Hundreds of members of Faith & Action for Strength Together (FAST) voted overwhelmingly Monday night to make “youth concerns,” including crime, their greatest worry in the community.

The organization, made up of several local congregations, has advocated for juvenile diversion programs before. But Pinellas County’s teen car theft epidemic, religious leaders said, has left them more worried now than ever.

Citizens Taking The Next Step To Retrieve COPS Report

September 28, 2017. The Chronicle.

A coalition formed since the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) announced it will not release its report on its assessment of the North Charleston Police Department initiated last year, is calling for community engagement to force the federal agency to produce the document.

A coalition of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Inc. (NAACPLDF), the North Charleston Branch NAACP, The Charleston Area Justice Ministry (CAJM), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Community Resource Center last week called on citizens to contact local, state and federal elected officials asking them to push for release of the COPS report.

Advocates call for release of federal report on North Charleston police

September 20, 2017. The Post and Courier.

Staking a public claim to a yearlong assessment of North Charleston police, local civil rights advocates demanded the review’s release, despite the federal government’s decision to abandon the effort.

Their call came days after the Department of Justice announced an overhaul of the Collaborative Reform Initiative at the agency’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, essentially excising the reform component.

The program’s end shouldn’t stop federal officials from releasing a document that could highlight shortcomings of the North Charleston Police Department and aid local reformers’ mission to bring lasting change, the advocates argued.

Editorial: BREAD plan offers hope

September 9, 2017. The Columbus Dispatch.

It’s hard to grasp the carnage in Columbus this year. As of midweek, the city had suffered 91 homicides; last year at this time, there were 65. Just three years ago, there were 91 homicides for the entire year.

Police are baffled. They say they don’t know why. Columbus City Councilman Mitchell J. Brown, a former Columbus safety director, is also frustrated, noting that a disproportionate number of the victims are black males; they accounted for at least 58 of this year’s homicides, he said. And homicide isn’t claiming just those who make themselves vulnerable to violence by participating in gangs or the drug trade; innocents have become collateral damage.

Clearly, we’ve got to find a better way. The faith-based, social-justice group BREAD thinks it has one.