Fabiola Santiago

Drive-bys and killings don’t stop despite tough talk, mournful pleas

Jada Page was killed in August as she left the house with her father to go to the movies.
Jada Page was killed in August as she left the house with her father to go to the movies.

The shootings and the killings don’t stop — and cases are piling up faster than police can solve the riddles, break the codes, identify suspects.

But let’s for a moment play a geography game.

Imagine that in front of a quaint pink bungalow in Pinecrest, Coral Gables, Miami Shores — or any of our well-heeled communities in Miami-Dade County — seven people, three of them teenagers, are gunned down on New Year’s Day.

Imagine that three more people are shot again the next day, a pregnant woman caught in the crossfire.

Here we are, only the third day of 2017, and no respite.

If this level of violence were being perpetrated in wealthy communities, it wouldn’t be acceptable, wouldn’t be tolerated, wouldn’t repeat itself past a few incidents. All of this county’s law enforcement power would have pulled together and stopped these acts of open warfare on our streets long ago. The powers-that-be would’ve called out the National Guard if necessary.

But these heartless crimes are happening in Miami-Dade’s poorest communities, and although the brass talks tough, the lack of results speaks for itself. There was even a drive-by shooting at the funeral of a victim in North Miami. That’s how little fear the criminals who operate inside these communities have these days. They shoot with impunity. And we don’t make a dent getting guns off our streets.

“Community violence persists as long as we accept neglect, hopelessness and apathy,” an exasperated Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said Monday in several tweets after the latest shootings.

He’s right.

“Reclaiming our streets begins with reclaiming our homes,” he said. “Community violence is a consequence. True solutions lie with identifying and addressing the cause. Together, as a community, for [the] children.”

Prevention and enforcement need to work together, Carvalho added, echoing what he has been saying during the last two years of escalating violence. He’s weary of attending funerals and consoling grieving parents and classmates, pleading with the community to step forward and help police.

But words aren’t enough anymore.

The week before Christmas it was the same story — 14 people shot in four different shootings and drive-bys, attacks on families standing outside or taking bullets inside their homes. In this never-ending string of hideous crimes, kids die or are gravely wounded.

“We’re not supposed to bury our kids,” Dominique Brown told a church gathering on Dec. 29 in a tearful plea for help. Her 8-year-old daughter, Jada Page, was killed in August as she left the house with her father to go to the movies. There has been no arrest. “Unless you’re in this situation, you don’t understand. There’s a hole in my heart.”

And so it goes. No suspects arrested, tried, convicted — only the heart-breaking images of innocent victims and mournful goodbyes: A horse-drawn carriage carrying the turquoise casket painted with hearts of a sweet Jada, who paid with her life the price of adult rage and crime. The smile of a pretty 15-year-old girl watching TV in her grandmother’s living room when she took her last breath. A 2-year-old quietly pointing to his belly button on TV to show the scar from a bullet wound. He may not speak beyond baby talk, but he already knows what it’s like to be shot.

And the rest of this community? Numb to the gravity of these crimes.

Of all the holiday-time shootouts, the only one with a captured suspect happened in South Beach’s Ocean Drive, where the tourists are and the residents won’t tolerate this kind of violence without descending on City Hall with a vengeance and demanding solutions.

In a nutshell, there were alert police officers in the area who gave quick chase. There were cameras all around to capture the shooting. There were people willing to talk to police and describe suspects. Arrested was a 17-year-old who had no business sporting a gun, much less firing it into a group of people.

If every shooting had that outcome, there wouldn’t be so much impunity.

But in Miami’s humblest neighborhoods, victims have only mere words to console them — and no justice. 

Related stories from Miami Herald