In Richmond, CA police identified a mere 25 people causing 70 percent of the city’s violence. When I learned these statistics were similar to ours in Miami, I asked what I thought was a simple question. “If you know who these murderers are, why don’t you just arrest them?” The answer is not so simple. These people often escape arrest and prosecution because witnesses are too fearful to testify. So, no, the police can’t just arrest them even though they’d like to.
In March, 1,400 members of People Acting for Community Together (PACT) asked officials to select one of three gun-violence reduction programs. These programs — Group Violence Intervention, Cure Violence, and the Office of Neighborhood Safety — have proven effective in other cities. The programs focus on the small number of individuals responsible for most of the violence.
If we can’t put them away, we must turn them away from violence altogether.
That is exactly what these programs do. They engage directly with these individuals, providing them an alternative to their self-destructive lifestyle and giving them strategies to break the cycle of violence.
Think about it, if a neighborhood has 20 truly violent perpetrators and a program can turn just 2 of them away from a life of violence, that’s a 10% reduction in gun shootings. We’ve been trying everything else in Miami-Dade, but the number of homicides due to gun violence isn’t changing. I think it’s time to adopt a program that makes the streets of Liberty City, Overtown and Miami Gardens safe for preponderance of residents threatened by the violence of a few.
In response to PACT’s request, Miami-Dade Police Director Juan Perez recently announced that a request for proposal is being readied to select a program. There is power in numbers my friends. When 1,400 people ask, it empowers leaders like Director Perez or Public Defender Carlos Martinez to evaluate and push forward programs like these with the knowledge that the 1,400 of us who did the asking will be standing at their side to request necessary funding for implementation.
I also am grateful for their leadership to help select a program they believe will work. I also expect the commissioners from Miami Gardens, Miami and Miami-Dade County to expeditiously fund the selected program. Lives depend upon it.