"I stopped counting at 44," Miami-Dade Superintendent of Schools Alberto Carvalho said about student funerals at the second Joint Roundtable on Youth Safety meeting. Liberty City activist Cuthbert Harewood, Sunny Isles Beach Police Chief Fred Maas, Ray Parris of Parafruit and Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez spoke about issues related to teen violence.
A teenager shot and killed Thursday in Brownsville, two other teens killed earlier in the week, a total of three dead in three days in Miami. The schools superintendent says he's tired of going to student funerals.
"I stopped counting at 44," Miami-Dade Superintendent of Schools Alberto Carvalho said at a meeting Friday. "Too much pain, too many hurtful embraces of mothers and fathers."
Carvalho was speaking at the second Joint Roundtable on Youth Safety meeting. It was held at Miami Senior High, bringing together educators, politicians, police, and community activists. The object, according to organizers, was not to just talk about the problem but to begin taking action to reduce youth violence.
Judging from the numbers, they have their work cut out for them. According to the Miami-Dade school district, from 2009 through 2012, a total of 99 school kids were killed in the county. That's three times the number over the same span of time in Broward County, and 81 of those children were killed with guns.
"Definitely too easy to get guns in our community," said Liberty City activist Cuthbert Harewood.
That's just one of the problems. The question for the panel is, what can be done to turn back the tide of youth violence? Roundtable participant Fred Maas, the police chief of Sunny Isles Beach and before that a veteran cop with the Miami-Dade Police, has some thoughts.
"I think the most important thing is that it's a partnership with parents, children, schools, and law enforcement to tackle the problem," Maas said. "And I think it's a parental situation from day one, parents need to take responsibility, they need to know where their children are."
Miami Police have been enforcing the county's teen curfew ordinance, hoping that effort will get kids back inside their homes late at night and therefore out of trouble. That's one approach for law enforcement.
Ray Parris leads a group taking another tack. His organization, called Parafruit, runs a program in Liberty City that teaches life skills, financial literacy, and tech skills to teenagers. The idea is to take them off the streets and into a job.
"Create opportunities out of whatever talent and skills that you have," Parris said.
The Roundtable on Friday adopted a blueprint to take action on several fronts, including increasing police presence at school and parks, getting the word out about crime prevention and about summer job programs, increasing access to behavioral and mental health services, and more. However, no one thinks these measures will cure the problem overnight. Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez cautioned everyone not to expect miracles in the fight against teen violence.
"I don't think we're ever going to eliminate it because that's not in the cards," Gimenez said. "But reduction can be had and that's what we're looking for, a steep reduction in crime and violence against kids."