gunsSchool Safety is our #1 Concern

In light of recent violent events at the national level including the Navy Yard in Washington D.C, and the remembrance of Newtown, Massachusetts, as well as local events in past months that included the shooting of a charter school student on a bus, the accidental discharge of a weapon at a school, our Miami-Dade Schools Police Department (MDSPD) constantly studies new ways to increase schools’ safety. We must take every action to help ensure the safety of our youth. We cannot do this alone and parental involvement and community engagements are the keys to prevention and mitigation. With the motto: “No guns in our schools”, we need to create a plan which will protect our students. One gun is one too many. One gun is a grim reminder of our students that have had their young lives cut short.

Our district plans to take a two-pronged approach in addressing guns in schools. The ‘In School Approach’ involves having officers at school sites to build relationships with students and parents, create awareness campaigns through law-related education and student presentations. The ‘Out of School Approach’ will involve having our MDSPD work with local, state, and federal partners to track and to investigate guns in schools.

We want to have Weapons Free School Zones. Schools need be safe havens and not places for guns. We must change the mentality that it is fine to bring weapons to school sites. We presently have our random metal detector program, which will continue expanding since preliminary studies show that this type of programs contributes to reducing the risk of weapons at school campuses.

To continue our goal of maintaining and improving safety and security in our schools, we will increase our firearm detection canine force. At the same time, we are adding more School Resource Officers (SRO) to our secondary schools and we are planning to include middle and kindergarten to 8th grade centers. We are increasing officer presences and relationships with students and parents. We provide information alert on potential issues and are proactive in reducing weapons introduced to the campus.

If we are going to stop violence and guns in our community, we need support from parents and other key players. We want students and parents to use our anonymous 305.995.COPS (2677) tip hotline or CrimeStoppers to provide tips. CrimeStoppers even has a new application that was recently launched to facilitate this process. We participate with and help promote the Miami Dade Police Gun Bounty Program. This is based on tips related to illegal guns and provides monetary rewards to the donor for recovered guns that were used in a crime. We continue to increase student awareness of weapons-related law through presentations being conducted with Youth Crime Watch.

During the week of November 18-22, we will conduct a campaign with Youth Crime Watch at all our elementary schools regarding awareness of not handling weapons and taking a pledge to be weapons free. The “No Guns and Weapons in my School” Campaign will be highlighted and instituted at all of our schools in Miami-Dade County.

We recently assigned a detective in a part-time basis to Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms (ATF) to assist with the investigation of all firearms incidents by tracking and investigation of the source. We continue to work proactively with local, state, and federal agencies to prevent weapons and drugs from getting into the school sites, as part of the proactive work that our district performs. We also work with the Department of Children and Families (DCF) regarding cases that involve negligent action by the parents resulting in a weapon entering our schools sites.

We will hold parents accountable. We will also increase presentations through the PTA and online resources for parents to be aware of these issues. There is also the continued collaboration through the Round Table Youth Safety Committee and the Miami-Dade Police Chiefs Association Juvenile Safety Committee which is tasked with finding solutions to the use of violence by young people in our community.

We need to win this war because we choose to protect our youngsters. We need community cooperation and participation. Help us to keep our kids safe take the pledge: “No Guns and Weapons in my School.”