ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Days before St. Pete Mayor Ken Welch and Police Chief Anthony Holloway announced the new Youth Cares Program, Lisa Wheeler-Bowman was already out doing her job connecting with teens to prevent crime. 

What You Need To Know

  • The Youth Care Program is a new initiative to help prevent young felony offenders from repeating the cycle of crime through early intervention

  • The new Community Impact and Safety Liaison, Lisa Wheeler-Bowman, will provide individualized support and resources to youth offenders of non-violent felonies and their families

  • The goal is to redirect at-risk youth early to reduce recidivism and promote positive pathways for development and success

She is the new community impact and safety liaison. Through the Youth Cares Program, she will be tasked with reaching out to non-violent teens arrested for felonies and their families to try to stop a crime cycle from beginning. 

“This will fill that gap in a personal one-on-one way with someone. And Lisa will have someone who has exemplary street connections in our community to help some of these parents who are really overwhelmed,” said Welch. 

“This is not a diversion program,” said Chief Holloway. “I want to repeat that. This is not a diversion program. The kids will still face consequences of the charges that they’re being charged with.” 

The new program is designed to reach young, non-violent felony offenders and their families, and offer them recommendations and resources. 

Holloway said they cannot arrest their way out of the current cycle of teen violence happening within St. Pete. 

He provided an example of a 16-year-old that already had 44 charges from various crimes over the years. Those crimes did not start out violent, but eventually ended violent. 

“What this program is going to do is hopefully intervene and stop this,” said Holloway. 

This is where Wheeler-Bowman comes into the picture. Once an arrest is made with a non-violent felony offending teen, she will make contact with them and their families within 72 hours. 

She will then make recommendations and connect them to community resources.

“My heart is engaged. It has been in this area since I have been out there hitting the streets, trying to find out who murdered my son,” said Wheeler-Bowman. “It’s my life's mission because no mother should have to bury a child. It’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about my son.”

It is personal for Wheeler-Bowman when it comes to addressing the cycle of crime in the city. 

“I’m not going to just stop with one phone call, one visit. You are going to continue to see this face,” said Wheeler-Bowman.

As for funding, the NFL granted the City $450,000 to run this program for the next two years.