Across South Florida, NBC 6 was told organized gangs have been up to no good over the past year, taking advantage of teens who lost the structure of getting up and going to school every day and participating in sports and other activities. They’ve basically been recruited to do the dirty work for adults.
The Miami-Dade Mayor’s office released statistics showing how the situation has been having deadly results. One in four of the people killed in the county in 2020 was under 21 years old.
“From what we saw in this last year, we think COVID was one of the main causes was that the number of shootings—contact shootings—homicides—they all increased," Miami-Dade State Attorney Kathy Fernandez Rundle said. "We also noticed that a lot of the shooters were young and younger and the victims are younger and younger.”
Police say that those running gangs recruited teens because the penalties for juveniles caught committing offenses are not as severe, and many of the teens vulnerable were looking for money to help their families pay the bills after jobs were lost.
“They are seducing these young people to pulling the trigger because they know that the criminal justice system isn’t about putting 15-year-olds in prison rest of their lives," City of Miami Police Chief Art Acevedo said.
“This is definitely a terrible time coming out of the pandemic now," said Freddy Ramirez, Miami- Dade’s Police Director. "If the fiber of the home breaks down, that gives the opportunity for bad actors or the influence of social media to lead our children to make terrible decisions.”
Miami-Dade Mayor Daniela Levine Cava’s plan is to take some funds from the renaming rights at the arena downtown and put it this summer into programs that would help more than 1,000 at-risk kids by getting them internships where they would be paid and get job skills. These youngsters would be identified as those who really are on the brink going down the wrong path.
“Let’s say we need to start early. We need prevention. We need diversion. We need intervention and that’s what we are going to do through our peace and prosperity plan," Levine Cava said. “We’re going to be able to invest in real resources, in programs that will really keep kids out of trouble and make sure they don’t go down the wrong path."
This plan is now before the Miami-Dade County Board of Commissioners and before school is out. The hope is this money will already be flowing to provide these opportunities.
Just a few days ago, Acevedo announced a surge of officers in specific neighborhoods and these additional officers are on the lookout for teens who are on the brink of going the wrong direction. The plan is a regional effort and includes the Miami-Dade Police Department, State Attorney’s Office, and federal law enforcement agencies.
To read details on the proposal click here.