Florida International University

A spike in drive-by shootings in Liberty City that has left two dead and at least four wounded since May has prompted a police crackdown and a series of public meetings as officials, community leaders and residents scramble to quell the violence.

All this occurs in the aftermath of a shooting earlier this month at the Liberty Square housing development that left 17-year-old James Taylor in critical condition with a shot to the head and his 22-months-old niece wounded in the foot. A shooting Aug. 8 killed a passenger in a cab and injured the cab driver and a bystander.

Strategies to deal with the violence include the following:

• A five-day police crackdown on gun-related violence in Liberty City and Little Haiti

• Installing traffic barriers in Liberty Square.

• Connecting previously non-functional security cameras at the development.

These moves are in addition to enforcement of a curfew that began in May to keep young people off the streets at night, when violence is thought to be at its peak.

None of the recent shootings have occurred during curfew hours. And, in some cases, they involved shooters and victims who were somehow connected with one another.

Miami Police announced Tuesday that they will initiate Operation Take Back Our Streets, the five-day effort to stop gun-related violence in the Miami neighborhoods of Liberty City and Littler Haiti.

“We’re going out there and making a lot of arrests, we’re putting people away, and we’re taking a lot of guns off the streets,” said Miami Police Chief Miguel Exposito.

The operation will add uniformed patrol and undercover officers and the issuing of warrants to help capture suspects and rid the streets of high-powered assault weapons.  Exposito said the crackdown will last only five days due to budget constraints on overtime pay.

The chief hopes bringing in help from church leaders “will bring on a change in culture.”

“We’re seeing 14- and 15-year-olds carrying guns,” he said.

Officers who attended an Aug. 5 “stop the violence” meeting at the Liberty Square complex said community residents must speak out if they know something about a crime.

The meeting took place hours after the arrest of Luis Hernandez, 16, who was charged with attempted felony murder in the Taylor case. The arrest was based on a tip.

Police are looking for Duslee “Black” Jones, 23, and Jean Francois Pierre, 22, who they think were Hernandez's accomplices in the Taylor shooting.

Delrish Moss, a Miami Police commander, spoke directly to the men in the audience about the  “don't snitch” culture. “Every one of you has a responsibility to this community,” Moss said.

In Liberty Square, the Residents' Council voted to close 10 of the development's 18 alleys.

Cameras located throughout the development, which hadn’t been working, will now offer a direct feed to Miami police which has vowed to increase the number of officers patrolling the area.

And speed bumps will be installed on streets in the development.

Miami City Commissioner Richard Dunn was at the scene of the taxi shooting at Northwest 7th Avenue and 71st Street. Just days earlier, Dunn had commented on gun violence: “Somewhere down the line we have missed something.”

• Miami Police are asking anyone with information on crime to call Crime Stoppers at (305)471-8477. 

Ronnie Figueroa may be reached at rfigu003@fiu.edu.