In 2015, over 2600 came to our Nehemiah Assembly at Tropicana field to stand up for justice in our community. Our accomplishments since 2005 include:

Transportation

-We got our county transportation agency, PSTA, to upgrade many of the bus stops to provide shelter and more safety for their riders, especially senior citizens.

-FAST got the Director of the Metropolitan Planning Organization to create a new, one-number system for senior transportation. This new system, unveiled in March 2006, works with the Area Agency for Aging and allows seniors to speak directly with a trained professional who can help them with their transportation needs. There are over 20,500 seniors in Pinellas County who do not drive and who will benefit from this new system.

Reducing youth arrests

 

-In the summer of 2014, for the first time ever all School Resource Officers participated in a mandatory training around alternatives to arresting students. So far in the 2014-15 school year, there has been about a 40% reduction in arrests as compared to the 2013-14 school year.

 - In 2012 Florida arrested 78,195 youth and 73,371 were for non-violent offenses.[1]  Florida arrests more of our youth than California or Texas and we arrest double the percentage of our youth in comparison to New York.  Over the last five years Florida arrested 4,839 children between the ages of 5 and 10 years old![2]This is a serious problem because when children are arrested they get criminal records that keep them from getting jobs and college scholarships later in life.[3]  Children who make simple mistakes are being labeled as criminals and their opportunities are being limited at a young age.

Solution: The state has created a program called Civil Citations through which local law enforcement can divert youth to community-based programs without giving them criminal records.  Youth who go through such programs face consequences for their actions.  They do community service, make restitution to victims and the community and complete whatever interventions are deemed necessary to change their behavior.  Youth in civil citations program are three times less likely to get into trouble again as youth who are arrested for the same infractions. Not only is diverting youth to community-based programs more effective, it also saves money.  Over $4,115 per case is saved just on processing fees.

In Pinellas County

Four years ago at our Nehemiah Action we asked the Mayor of St. Petersburg to prioritize reducing youth arrests when he hired a new police chief.  The Mayor followed through on his commitment.  Currently, the City of St. Petersburg diverts 98% of eligible youth to our civil citation program. This means that 311 children in St. Petersburg were able to avoid lifelong arrest records during the last year alone. In addition to using the civil citation program, Chief Holloway started the new “Second Chance” Program to give children in St. Petersburg immediate consequences for their offenses without giving them criminal records and without having to transport them to the Juvenile Assessment Center in Largo. 

Three years ago at our Nehemiah Action, we asked Chief Slaughter of Clearwater to follow St. Petersburg's lead in using the county's Arrest Avoidance program. At the time, only 68% of eligible children in Clearwater were diverted. Chief Slaughter has followed through on his commitment, and in the three months following our Nehemiah Action he brought up Clearwater's usage rate to 84%. 

Statewide

Four years ago we joined with nine other Justice Ministry Organizations in Florida and started working on a bill that made civil citations accessible to all children throughout the state.  Finally, in the spring of 2018, the Florida legislature passed our bill and the Governor signed it into law. Now, every judicial circuit must have a civil citation programs for youth who commit non-violent misdemeanors! Through our hard work fighting for this bill and bringing awareness to unnecessary youth arrests, more than 5,000 less children received arrest records last year alone!

For a complete list of all the ways our statewide work on youth arrest has benefited the community click here.

[1] FBI Uniform Crime reports http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2012/crime-in-the-u.s.-2012/tables/69tabledatadecpdf

[2] FL Department of Juvenile Justice Report. http://public.tableausoftware.com/views/DPROFILE/AGE?:embed=y&:display_count=yes#1

[3] Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe, and other officials from throughout the state, confirmed that even though juvenile records are often said to have been expunged or sealed they are still accessible to future employers.  He said this was unavoidable due to modern technology.

Education

-In 2005, we secured commitments from the director of the Early Learning Coalition to provide funding for a full-day of Pre-K for any child whose parents are working am make less than 200% of the poverty level. To date over 12,000 low-income 4-year-olds in Pinellas County have been able to attend Pre-K because of this funding.

-Since 2014, FAST has been pushing for an end to out of school suspensions (OSS). These suspensions are proven to be ineffective at changing a child's behavior, and increase the likelihood that a child will drop out of school. We asked the District to eliminate all out of school suspensions, and as a result, they changed their policies so that K-2 students are no longer allowed to receive OSS without approval of the area superintendent, and students in grades 305 cannot receive OSS longer than two days without approval of the area superintendent. The district also set up three suspension centers (called the Alternative Placement Program) where middle and high school students can go and receive help instead of being sent home on OSS. These policy changes have led to a 40% reduction in out of school suspensions since 2014. 

Affordable Housing

-In 2006, FAST secured commitments from all 7 county commissioners to support an affordable housing trust fund. To date, $19.2 million has been allocated to the fund creating 1469 new units. We continue to monitor the progress on the funding for the trust fund.

-When County Commissioners asked voters to pass the Penny for Pinellas Tax in 2007, they promised that $30 million of that tax (3.7%) would go towards the affordable housing land trust. They said they would allocate $3 million a year to affordable housing for each of the 10 years of the Penny tax. However, after voters passed the tax, they did not follow through on this commitment. Because of the hard work of FAST $15 million of this commitment has been reinstated . $7.5 million has been spent so far, creating 736 units. The final $7.5 million is committed projects currently under construction and in the development phase.

- In 2017, we got the City Council of St. Petersburg to allocate $15 million of their upcoming Penny for Pinellas funds (from 2020-2030) to go towards affordable housing.  

-If you your someone you know is in need of affordable housing here are the resources for those who would like to see if they they are eligible to live in any of the units available. 

For rental units go to www.floridahousingsearch.org or call toll free 1-877-428-8844. 

For home ownership opportunities check the county website www.pinellascounty.org/community or call 727-464-8210. You can also call the Tampa Bay CDC at 727-442-7075.

Drugs and Crime

-Through the FAST Hot Spots campaign, the local law enforcement of the County, Clearwater, and St. Petersburg have, in total, cleaned up over 76 hot spots of drugs and crime in our communities.

We got the state legislature to enact legislation allowing 4,000 non-violent offenders to attend locally based drug treatment rather than go to prison. It is estimated that this will save the state $92 million in prison costs.

Got Sheriff Gualtieri to reinstate an in-jail rehabilitation program by funding it directly from the sheriff’s budget. Previously, participants of this program were twice as likely to stay out of jail after being released as inmates from the regular jail population.

Jobs

-In 2011 Dr. Law, President of St. Petersburg College, responded to the concerns of FAST by creating the Learn to Earn Program. This program created short term, affordable, certificate programs to prepare people for jobs in fields which are currently hiring. Since 2011, over 4,000 certificates have been earned in fields such as Orthotic Fitter and Security Officer.

 - After two years of work, on August 22nd, 2013, the St. Petersburg City Council voted unanimously to enact an ordinance creating the Construction Incentive Project (CIP). This law provides incentives to contractors working on City projects who hire ex-offenders, disadvantaged residents and apprentices from Pinellas County.

Healthcare

-About 200,000 adults in Pinellas County lack access to affordable dental care. In Pinellas County for people living at 100% of the Federal Poverty Line, which for a family of 4 is a household income of $23,050, most can get covered for only ‘relief of pain' services - mostly extractions. After two years of hard work by FAST members, in 2013 three dental clinics were added which serve an additional 1,900 per year. In 2014 we successfully got the County Commissioners to allocate $958,000 of reoccurring funding into the county budget for dental care.  This will result in 1,600 more people getting access to dental care each year. In total 3,500 more will be able to get access to comprehensive dental care in Pinellas County because of our efforts.