My goal is to make bullet-riddled Miami a ‘homicide-free’ city

Recent victims of Miami’s gun violence: Danny Alvarez, 17, and 46-year-old Victor V. Carter on Jan. 6 from gunshot wounds in two separate shootings in Miami.
Recent victims of Miami’s gun violence: Danny Alvarez, 17, and 46-year-old Victor V. Carter on Jan. 6 from gunshot wounds in two separate shootings in Miami. Miami Police

The Herald’s Dec. 27 editorial was right to express outrage over the gun-violence epidemic that continues to plague Miami-Dade County. In my two-plus months as mayor of the city of Miami, I have met the families of too many victims and visited too many crime scenes to disagree with the Editorial Board’s characterization that gun violence is the most urgent issue facing our community.

The good news is that within the city limits of Miami, homicides have dropped about 34 percent over the last four years from a high of 86 in 2014 to a low of 57 in 2017. But that’s still 57 too many, and even significant city-wide improvement doesn’t mean much to the mothers and fathers who have lost children to gun violence.

It was particularly shocking to close out the 2017 with three homicides in a week. And the new year, unfortunately, didn’t get off to a promising start, either: In the first week of the 2018, we saw another three murders in the city of Miami, including that of a 17-year-old.

These killings are unacceptable, and though I don’t claim to have all the answers to this epidemic, I am absolutely committed to working closely with the hardest-hit communities to eradicate it.

This starts with engaging residents, which I will continue to do as much as I humanly can. Recently, I attended a panel hosted by Tangela Sears and other parents of murdered children. I was moved not just by the passion they have for combating gun violence, but by the creativity and complexity of their proposed solutions. Too often as elected officials, we ignore the input of the people most intimately affected by the issues we want to solve. This is a mistake I intend to avoid by keeping myself open and accessible to residents.

Additionally, we are going to continue to push the initiatives that have worked. On my first day as mayor, for instance, the Miami Commission approved a 10-square-mile expansion of ShotSpotter, a gunfire-detection technology that I brought to the city in 2014. ShotSpotter has been a huge asset to the Miami Police Department and has been a major factor in the steadily declining homicide rate. We must continue to identify initiatives like ShotSpotter that are working, and expand or intensify their implementation.

Perhaps most important, we need leaders that are capable of identifying best practices from around the country and bringing them to Miami. This started earlier this month, when the City Commission ratified my appointment of Emilio Gonzalez as city manager. Gonzalez, a 26-year Army veteran and former member of the National Security Council, as well as an exceptionally experienced administrator and long-time Miami resident, is exactly the type of leader we need at the top of our city’s administration.

Less than a week after his ratification, Gonzalez named Jorge Colina as our new chief of police, who was sworn in this week. I could not be more pleased with this choice. Chief Colina has served as an Assistant Chief for the last three years, overseeing all four divisions of our Police Department.

More important, Chief Colina is a dedicated public servant and a man of exceptional character. He isn’t interested in politics, personalities, or who gets the credit — over the course of his 27-year career, he has demonstrated that he is driven solely by his desire to protect the residents of our city.

Parents in Miami shouldn’t have to worry whether their kids will make it home safely every night. In City Manager Gonzalez and Colina, I am confident that we have a leadership team primed to make my vision a reality. I am committed to working together with them, the community activists that have worked tirelessly on this issue, and the residents of our city to continue to make strides towards a homicide-free Miami.

Francis X. Suarez is the mayor of the city of Miami.