andre-williams_web.jpgThe rate of violent and serious crimes has escalated in the past year in Miami Gardens. We have had nine incidents of gun violence in the city in the past 11 days. That statistic is unbelievable to me.  And a significant percentage of these crimes are committed by young people.

Tequilla Forshee, a 12-year-old girl who was shot and killed in her home in Miami Gardens in a random act of violence, did not have to die. She should be playing will her dolls and planning for her 13th birthday. Four men were shot while sitting on their front porch all are hospitalized several days ago.

Why is there silence? We should be screaming from the rooftops about this and demanding action and change. Crime is a law-enforcement issue but, even more importantly, it’s a social issue. We have to engage our young people and teach them accountability, responsibility and a strong sense of purpose and value.

It’s easy to talk about a problem. Let’s also talk about solutions. Let me share with you the work of some extraordinary people at a local church who are working with at-risk youth in the city.
As a city councilman in 2012, I joined with Trinity Peacemakers Church, the Juvenile Services Department of Miami-Dade County and the Department of Juvenile Justice to spearhead a comprehensive and targeted Personal Responsibility Education Program to serve at risk youth.
The program, which runs through 2015, is the only federally funded one of its kind focused on at risk youth in Miami-Dade, County. I provided a letter of support for the proposal to secure the federal funding and convened a town hall meeting in October 2012 with Trinity Peacemakers, Juvenile Services, the police, the state attorney’s office, the public defender’s office and the clergy to discuss strategies for curbing youth violence.

The program serves young persons at Trinity’s Peacemaker Family Center who are between 12 and 18, including those who are referred by Juvenile Services and are not guilty of a violent felony or declared mentally incompetent.

The learning objectives of the 15-week program include teen pregnancy prevention, HIV/AIDS awareness, healthy relationships, life skills and financial literacy.  It will coordinate with the police and school principals to provide the services at middle schools and high schools that have been experiencing a high incidence of gang activity.

Participants receive a certificate for completing a minimum of 12 weeks of the program. We now have our first set of graduates. “We are so excited to announce that we graduated 172 young people from the program in the calendar year beginning in October 2012 and ending this September,” said the Rev. Linda Freeman, executive director of Peacemakers Family Center. “We also appreciate Andre’s work in support of the Personal Responsibilty Program, bringing all of the stakeholders together and visioning this collaboration with the Juvenile Services Department and the Department of Juvenile Justice.”

André L. Williams, a Harvard-educated real estate attorney, was elected a Miami Gardens councilman in 2006.