If we dont look, were going to pay, he said at a recent town hall forum. I paid. I didnt look. It took me losing my child to look and I grew up here in Miami Gardens for 33 years.
Miami Gardens police acknowledges it will take a community partnership to stamp out the five or six gangs they say are the most active of the known gangs operating in the city. Most of the gang-related incidents and shootings are clustered in the Carol City and Norland neighborhoods.
Parents are concerned the gang violence is spilling into the schools.
Kids cant concentrate on schoolwork because theyre worried about whos beefing with who, said Harford Howell, whose son attends a Miami Gardens charter school. Beefing is a slang term for an argument or fight.
A sense of the gang culture can be gleaned through police reports, which often dont include names because those involved as suspects and victims are too young.
In December 2012, two juveniles and known gang members were riding a bicycle at night without a light. One pedaled while the other sat on the handlebars. When police pulled them over, one of the boys ran away, throwing into the bushes a 12-gauge shotgun. The pair were linked to four robberies in the area.
In January, a student was beat up by a group of kids at North Dade Middle School after school, leaving him with a swollen lip and nose. During the attack, the other students shouted the name of their gang.
When police stopped a known gang member in June, he tried to conceal something in his waistband from their view. The weapon: a Glock 17 handgun with an extended 30-round magazine.
In its report, police wrote that the young man had this straightforward explanation for being armed: Someone is trying to kill him.
And during a violent crime detail in August, officers stopped two known gang members driving in a rival gangs neighborhood. An officer noted in the report, Numerous members of this gang have been shot and killed in the immediate area.
The gangs in Miami Gardens are loosely organized by territory and are not the traditional gangs typically seen in cities like Los Angeles, police say.
Shootouts break out over perceived disrespect, Miller said.
I dont like you today and so I see you walking around and I may have a firearm so I decide Im going to shoot you, Miller said.
Miami-Dade Anti-Gang Strategy developer Wayne Rawlins said the gang issue is not exclusive to Miami Gardens. Other cities, including nearby Opa-locka and parts of the City of Miami, are dealing with these same types of hybrid gangs.
Miami Gardens and Opa-locka have serious issues, but they are not as bad as Liberty City where violent crimes and gang-related incidents are also high, he said.
Though not as organized as better known gangs, said Rawlins, gangs in Miami Gardens are violent and can grow powerful within communities if left unchecked.
We see that there are some Miami Gardens residents who are very, very afraid when we knock on the doors where the shootings take place, he said. There was one woman who was just afraid to step out of her door. You do see residents where this has impacted their way of life.
And while elected officials regularly tout the citys overall reduced crime rate in recent years, it all seems overshadowed when tragedies like the slaying of 12-year-old Tequila strike the community.
A family heartbroken , a family disrupted doesnt really care at the end of the day if crime has gone down when its personally affected them in a very tragic way, said deputy chief Miller.
Tequilas father walks around his neighborhood wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with his deceased daughters face. The shirt reads, Whos next?
He talks to the kids in the parks and the young men hanging out at neighborhood convenience stores. He wants to tell his story, show his face and his pain. Perhaps he can reach someone, make a difference
We can give them an education all we want to, he said. We can teach them A, B and C and mathematics and everything, but what does it proffer that child when he goes home and has to deal with gangs?