South Florida

New Push for Federal Funds to Protect South Florida's Youth

This Fourth of July there will, of course, be fireworks at night. Sadly for some South Florida families, the event won't be the same.

Those families lost their kids to gun violence in recent weeks. Four-year-old Nyla Jones died after she was shot by a relative, according to police. Miami Northwestern Senior High School honor student Kimson Green is also not with his family on the holiday. He, along with 18-year-old Ricky Dixon, died at the same time by gunfire. Miami police are still trying to track down those who killed them.

Ten-year-old student Robert Carr eloquently summed it all up, telling NBC 6 anchor Johnny Archer that “we need to put our guns down and our books up because we can be successful in our lives."

This week, U.S. Rep. Frederic Wilson exited a meeting with top law enforcement officers, school administrators and justice system leaders and said they are united in a new push to get federal funds that will help stop the destruction of teenage lives.

“We are concerned about our children and gang violence and then we addressed this issue of children killing each other in our community,” the Congresswoman told NBC 6.

Miami-Dade Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho suggested enacting a program that would place cameras outside of Miami-Dade's 520 schools to surveil student and neighborhood activity.

"The vast majority of critical incidents impacting young people in our community are happening outside of school after the last bell," Carvalho said. “We believe there is an insufficiency of programs on evenings and weekends to engage kids."

“We need to do a lot more to protect schools and the perimeter around schools,” Carvalho added.

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez said he thinks technology and support programs are ways to curb the violence.

“Increasing funding for technological devices – increasing funding and helping identify children earlier through the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project,” Suarez said among suggestions.

Carlos Martinez, Miami-Dade’s top public defender, and his team see all the circumstances that have gone wrong leading up to the arrest of teens they defend in court.

Martinez said he thinks the county’s healthcare system can be deployed to help.

"When people are shot in the community – when there are contact shootings– we talked about engaging the medical system, the Jackson health system, to try to identify ways to support those in the community, not just to treat their wounds but to treat their emotional trauma, Martinez said.

Miami-Dade police are now aiding City of Miami police in some areas.

"We need to continue to fight hard because any one child lost out there to gun violence is a black eye on all of us and it means we are not succeeding in what we do," Miami-Dade Police Director Juan Perez told NBC 6.

The 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project program developed by Wilson has had big success in the number of teens getting scholarships and moving on to good careers.

Carvalho said there is a big need for more funding in these after-school and weekend programs.

Bottom line, the hope is that federal funds from Washington, D.C., will protect the kids on the right track and keep other at-risk youth out of juvenile correctional centers.

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