Miami-Dade Police Director Juan Perez wore an orange ribbon on his chest as he stood alongside community and city leaders and mothers who lost their children to gun violence.
All of them wore orange as a sign of solidarity while Perez announced the creation of Crime Stoppers Kids, an extension of the Crime Stoppers Miami reward program, at a news conference Thursday at the Miami-Dade County police headquarters in Doral.
The new fund, sponsored by the Miami-Dade Police Department, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, United Way of Miami-Dade, Crime Stoppers Miami and the Children’s Trust, will collect donations specifically to reward tips involving violent crimes where children are injured or killed. While Crime Stoppers Miami generally offers a maximum of $3,000 for tips that result in an arrest, the Crime Stoppers Kids fund will allow for up to $17,000 in additional rewards.
“Sometimes we hit that wall and we can’t crack it,” Perez said. “We need to get past it, and this is one way to make it happen.”
More than 100 kids have been killed by gun violence in the last three years, he said.
The fund already has about $150,000 from donations from the mayor, Miami-Dade police department, United Way and the Children’s Trust, said Crime Stoppers Executive Director Richard Masten. He and Perez will determine how much money will be added on to the Crime Stoppers reward money from the fund on a case by case basis.
Masten hopes the incentive provided by the fund, which will be maintained in part by public contributions, will more than double the 20-30 tips Crime Stoppers receives monthly about cases involving children injured or killed by guns.
“Now there is a vehicle for every member of the public to join the fight against gun violence,” Masten said.
The announcement came on National Gun Violence Awareness Day where organizations across South Florida and the country wore orange to protest gun violence and advocate for gun safety. At the news conference, police officers in orange shirts passed orange wristbands with the hashtag #WearOrange printed on them.
Romania Dukes, 44, passed out orange T-shirts before the conference began. She was 10 steps away from her son, 17-year-old Michael Dukes, when he was killed by a bullet in Cutler Manor Apartments in 2014. Dukes came with other members of Mothers Fighting for Justice, a group founded five months ago to help mothers who lost their children to gun violence, to support the new Crime Stoppers initiative.
“I like how they were hitting on the key points of ‘see something, say something,” she said. “My son’s killer is walking around, and it upsets me because half the community won’t say something. People don’t do nothing unless it happens to them.”
Most of the mothers who came to the conference still don’t know who killed their children. But even though Regina Talabert does, she still came to show her support.
She wore an orange shirt with a picture of her daughter, 17-year-old Noricia Talabert, and her daughter’s class ring. Noricia was killed in October after she was caught in crossfire driving in Florida City.
“I think it’s wonderful,” Talabert said. “I want to support it any way I can.”
For her, the fund is an opportunity to prevent another mother from suffering the pain and sleepless nights she still endures.
“I think if it were like this before, my daughter could have been saved,” she said.
Donations to the fund can be made at crimestopperskids.org.