Two families are heartbroken after their young teens ended up victims of gun violence in south St. Petersburg. A 15-year-old was shot and killed Friday, and a 16-year-old is still hospitalized after someone shot him in the head early Tuesday morning.
The City of St. Petersburg and Pinellas County officials are working together on new initiatives aimed at curbing juvenile crime.
Earlier this year, St. Pete hired a new interventions director. Several programs within the school system started this year, and this summer additional efforts to help at-risk youth with job training and career placement will kick off.
The St. Pete Police Department is also partnering with law enforcement agencies across the county, including the sheriff's office, to crack down on repeat juvenile offenders. Currently, there are a number of teens who are repeatedly arrested and let back out on the streets almost immediately. A new program called HOME, Habitual Offender Monitoring Enforcement, is requiring more of those repeat offenders to wear electronic monitoring devices and if they remove the monitors or commit other crime while under supervision, there will be stiff penalties including jail time.
All of the changes families and friends of the recent gun violence, know are needed.
Steven Whirle rides his bike through his south St. Pete neighborhood all the time. But he feels a bit uneasy now, after a gunman shot 16-year-old Javarious Martin in the head, right behind his home.
"It's scary because that could've been me. It's right there," said Whirle.
Sadly, it's also something Whirle and others in the neighborhood have gotten used to. Shootings killed several teens in south St. Pete in the last year. One claimed the life of a 15-year-old, Trevion Larkins, Friday night near Child's Park. His family and friends come to a memorial at the crime scene every day.
"I loved Tre because he taught me how to do new tricks and stuff. He taught me how to dribble," said Larkins' cousin, Ke'von Nimon.
"He was funny. We always argued, but he was still my favorite brother," said Bashayla Williams, Trevion's sister.
"It's sad because they're all young and it just makes me think, you know, I'm not far from them. I'm just a couple years older. It just blows my mind," said Whirle.
18-year-old Marquez Bingham is in jail charged with second degree murder for Trevion Larkins' death. Larkins and Javarious Martin, Tuesday's victim, were friends, and played football together.
As police search for other suspects, many in the community are hopeful actions by the city and county will stop the blood shed.
"It's crazy this stuff keeps happening," said Whirle.