Police in Fort Pierce are hoping the second half of 2012 is just like the first half.
That's because for the first time in more than three decades, the city has yet to record a murder this late in the year.
Police attribute that to a number of reasons, one of them is inside a building on South 21st Street.
The ear-splitting shrieks of teens and tweens in the middle of a dodge ball game echo off the walls inside the Police Athletic League Center. These kids are taking part in the Ft. Pierce PAL's summer camp. They may not realize it, but they're taking part in an important youth crime prevention program.
"A lot of kids that come here don't have that real strong family structure," says Paul Pearson, who heads the PAL programs.
Pearson says programs like this keep kids out of trouble. Kids, that cops hope will become adults who stay out of trouble. So why has this been such a good year so far for Fort Pierce? Cops will tell you last year's "Operation Ceasefire" and "Operation Street Peace" led to racketeering charges against a number of notorious gang members.
"We think taking those men off the street has had a significant effect in our shootings and our crime," said Sgt. Dennis McWilliams with the Ft. Pierce Police Department.
Another reason is the expansion of the local hospital. Lawnwood Regional is now a Trauma Center so the most gravely injured people can receive life saving care, quickly.
The last time Fort Pierce went a calendar year without a murder was 1970, so police are tempering their enthusiasm, knowing a murder-free year could change at any moment. What's important to them is building a stronger relationship with the community... a community that is willing to step forward and help when there's crime in their neighborhoods. Programs like the Police Athletic League help kids dodge problems today, and build lasting connections into the future.
"I might have had a 13, 14-year-old back in 1995 or 1996 and they're bringing their kids here now," said Paul Pearson proudly.
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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