MIAMI – A high-tech mobile unit was unveiled Friday in front of  Miami’s Children’s Juvenile Justice Center as community leaders and elected officials stepped up efforts to reduce youth unemployment, crime and dropout rates in the city’s most troubled neighborhoods.

The South Florida Workforce showcased the vehicle with a ribbon-cutting ceremony that included Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, Judge Orlando Prescott and several other professionals who are seeking to tackle longstanding social problems affecting

Miami’s youth population that includes a large segment of the city’s African-American and Latino communities. “This will bring us closer to the people,” said Rick Beasley, executive director of South Florida Workforce. “ I want to get to as many families as possible. Our role is to help people find a job.”

That’s one of the reasons the organization says it secured the mobile unit, which is equipped with 13 computer workstations with Internet access with satellite links. Youths will also receive job search assistance, interview preparation and drop-out counseling.

Although on wheels, the unit will sit at the Juvenile Justice Center, 3000 N.W. 27th Ave., from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays.  Community organizations, including churches, can have the unit travel to their sites for special events on the unit’s off-days. Youths at the Justice Center and in the neighborhood can also use the unit.

Community leaders are hoping the unit’s mobility and convenience will ease the burdens as criminal cases pile up at the Justice Center, where thousands of youths pass through for misdemeanors and felonies. Leaders also hope the system will prevent youths from falling through the cracks of the system.

“We’re hoping to reduce recidivism and help youths get back on track in their transition back to the community,” said Olivia Almagro, public information officer for the South Florida Workforce. “We really want to help the community.
The unit is the third of its type in the organization’s fleet which includes two others for adults. Youths were able to use the adult units on a limited basis prior to having their own, Almagro said. But, now, youths can have unlimited access round-the-clock.
The $350,000 youth mobile unit was donated by the organization’s sister group, the Heartland Regional Workforce, in North Florida. Officials at South Florida Workforce estimate it will cost $17,000 a year to operate but said it’s worth it.
“In order to change the direction of our youth, we have to give them an opportunity,” Gimenez said.