Communities search for solutions to violence against youth

Miami-Dade residents are calling for action to stem the increasing number of youth affected by gun violence in the community.

Following the recent death of 7-year-old boy Amiere Castro, was killed two days after Christmas in a drive-by attack on his aunt’s home in Southwest Miami, members of the community held a special community forum to determine what actions could be taken. However, some were frustrated even as they sought solutions.

“How can we fight this violence?” said Myrtle Barnett, mother of three sons. “The youth finds it so easy to get guns. It’s hard to determine who is armed and who is a potential threat. Then there’s drug dealing in homes and on the street, which in itself attracts violence. As long as there are wide-scale guns and drugs, our youth are in danger.”

Speaking at the forum, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said he and the county commission are very concerned. “We have an epidemic. There are children killing children, and we need to wipe it out.”

But former police officer Gervias Daley say “youth-on-youth violence has no easy solution, especially as they are being segregated into gangs characterized by fast cars, guns, drugs, and disrespect. These young people respect no one, fear no life, not even theirs. When they shoot, they shoot to kill. This is a major challenge for law enforcement, but it must be overcome.”

Despite the challenge, some community groups have formed to begin to address these underlining issues. Miami-Dade public school students, dubbing themselves the “Peace Ambassadors,” launched the “Declaration of Independence from Violence Against Miami-Dade County Children” to unite social service providers, mentors, and educators in a joint partnership with MDPS and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.

And in response to several incidents affected students at Northwestern High School in Liberty City, local mother Tangela Sears, whose son was a victim of gun violence, formed a support and advocacy group called Mothers of Murdered Children.

Group member Regina Morales, who also lost a niece to gun violence, believes such community initiatives play an important role, as “there is too much dependency on the police to deal with this crisis.”

“”It’s imperative that every parent and relative closely monitor our children to make sure they’re not the ones with the guns, and also not the ones being hurt by the guns,” says Morales. “While police may arrest the offenders, it’s parents and relatives who must rally to curb the violence from within the homes and the community.”

One crucial reform that’s needed, says Sears, is to reduce the lengthy time that elapses after a youth is killed or injured before parents get a response from detectives investigating these incidences. “These investigations need to be swift to apprehend those who are responsible for this violence against the youth.”

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