Editorials

Are we sitting by as Miami-Dade children die in the crossfire?

Miami Herald Editorial Board

Nine-year-old Sherdavia Jenkins died 10 years ago today in Miami-Dade, a victim of a stray bullet
Nine-year-old Sherdavia Jenkins died 10 years ago today in Miami-Dade, a victim of a stray bullet MIAMI HERALD

By the most recent, unfortunate tally, more than 335 children have been shot to death in Miami-Dade during the past decade, mostly in the Liberty City, Overtown and Miami Gardens areas.

That’s at least 334 more children since Sherdavia Jenkins, only 9, was fatally shot in the neck while playing outside her home. A gunfight between two men shattered the afternoon with a spray of bullets from an AK-47 and a .44 Magnum — and galvanized Greater Miami to prevent such a tragedy from ever happening again. Or so it seemed.

Today, a front-page article marks the 10th anniversary of the little girl’s death, a loss that “horrified the community and solidified her name as a rallying cry against the gun violence that has plagued Miami for decades.” The raw outcry made us believe these tragedies would not be tolerated. Truth is, it’s 2016, and we’re in the midst of an epidemic of children and teens dying. Bullets still fly, but sustained outrage is missing.

Where is the community push — from the chamber boardrooms to the city council daises — to end this scourge? Yes, some community leaders have united and vowed to work to end this crisis. But the effort seems muted. Not their fault.

Still, we don’t sense the urgency from the rest of the civic and business community. The “Let’s unite, focus and act to get this problem solved” momentum. Where is the equivalent of the once superpowered Non-Group? It was secretive and exclusive in ways that wouldn’t fly in today’s Greater Miami — nor should it — but face it, it got things done.

To be fair, this lack of a concerted and spirited confrontation to a community challenge has been noted in other areas, whether it’s traffic congestion or income inequality. Yes, good people are working, but they’re too often laboring in silos.

In recent months, the Editorial Board has met with business owners, community activists and medical professionals, all doing what they can from their perspectives. But, they say — and we agree — no one is stepping up big. We are not cynical enough to believe it’s because these shootings are happening in the inner cities or because somewhere in the backs of some leaders’ minds, these black lives don’t matter. Still, it’s worth asking, and it demands honest answers.

Judy Schaechter, chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, has been keeping track of young shooting victims. For her, the key is gun safety. Time after time, the shootings have been done by teens who should not have had guns. So where did they get them? Who’s investigating the source of the weapons? Who’s holding adults responsible for the ravages of their guns?

Jo Ann Bass, one of the owners of Joe’s Stone Crab in Miami Beach, who also met with the Board to voice outrage over these senseless shootings, has been touched by tragedy. A relative of 6-year-old King Carter, killed in crossfire in February, worked at her restaurant.

Ms. Bass feels strongly that unemployment is a key problem. “I do think it’s about jobs, about opportunity and the light at the end of the tunnel that these young people who turn to guns can’t see.” Well said.

So did we fail Sherdavia, as Herald columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. concluded recently? Yes, and every other child that has died in Miami-Dade since she did.

Now, what are we going to do about it?

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