After months of consulting with state and federal agencies on efforts to reduce violent crime, Miami Gardens reached out to students to hear their ideas at a summit Tuesday.
The event was hosted at Carol City High and featured students from middle and high schools in the area who discussed ideas with community and city leaders about how to deal with the citys gang issues, combating the no snitch problem and other topics.
Glenn Forshee, father of Tequila Forshee, retold the story of his daughters tragic death last August and pleaded with the audienceespecially the studentsto assist the city in combating violence.
All this stuff about not snitching and all this, thats ridiculous, Forshee said. We need your kids, we have to learn what we need to put in place to make your community better.
The students split into five breakout sessions that focused on discussions of gangs, snitching and crime, bullying, youth and police relations, and economic empowerment.
A few students did a lighthearted skit about dos and donts when getting pulled over by police and said that proper communication and building a relationship between officers and young people should be a priority.
Considering the amount of violence we have in our community we should embrace their help more often, said Mary-Kate Bruce, 16, a student at Norland High.
Lionel Lightbourne, a community outreach coordinator with the Tacolcy Center in Liberty City, led the discussion on changing the stigma on snitching. He developed an acronym with the students to rework what a snitch is, settling on Saying Nothing Is The Cause of Harm.
The terms snitch and witness are intellectually similar, but they have a different intention, said Lightbourne.
Another Norland High student, Maurice McDaniel, 18, suggested that theres also a slight stigma attached to police officers in the community.
When Im with my peers, I notice when Im around them and they see a police officer, its immediately like [they are] on edge, said McDaniel, who suggested that officers should host more events and be more present in the community.
Interim Police Chief Paul Miller also suggested alternatives to joining gangs, saying that students should join clubs and do volunteer work.
From January 2012 to August 2013 there were more than 70 gang-related incidents in the city, according to police records, and although the police departments zero tolerance policy has led to gun seizures and more arrests, the police and the city are still asking for more assistance from the community.
We allow these criminals, these perpetrators to live amongst us, go to event with us, party with us, have fun with us, were just as guilty as them, said Forshee.