MIAMI (CBS4) – Miami Police Chief Manuel Orosa says he’s taking steps right now to curb crime after a violent week in the Miami area in which two 16-year-old boys have lost their lives to gunfire and two others have been hospitalized with gunshot wounds.
Orosa also delivered a plea to the community to help his department in its efforts.
“Do your part to clean up a neighborhood. If you are a witness to a crime, do your part,” he tells CBS4’s Peter D’Oench in an exclusive interview. “The more people standup, the more we can get rid of a bad element in our community.”
“Any help is gladly appreciated,” said Orosa. “We will do our part and hopefully society will do its part.”
“If there is a problem and you fear for your life, come up and tell us about it,” he says. “We can find you a place outside that neighborhood where you can feel safe. We have funding for that.”
Orosa tells D’Oench that he was troubled by the recent wave of shootings.
On Saturday afternoon, 16-year-old Marquise Brunson was shot and killed by someone using a high-powered weapon at the Liberty Square Housing Development. Later that day, in Overtown, rap artist, 29-year-old Andre Scott, who is known as “Young Scrilla,” was shot in the right knee and rushed to Jackson Memorial Hospital after a drive-by shooting in which he said the suspects used at least one AK-47 assault weapon.
On Sunday, 16-year-old Dante Vilet was shot and killed in Brownsville when he ran away from two young suspects who fired at him from a four-door, older model maroon vehicle that police said could be a Maxima. And on Monday morning, as he was waiting for a school bus, 17-year-old Juan Videa was shot in the stomach as he waited for a school bus.
Orosa tells D’Oench that in the long term, there is one important priority.
“It has to be the changing of the mind of young people in our community,” Orosa says. “That would be my priority to try to reach these young kids that are growing up and they only understand and see gunfire. I would try to change that. Sometimes the first thing they do is reach for a weapon when they have a problem with someone. They decide to shoot it out instead of talk it out.”
“Sometimes I wonder what is in their heads. Because they have an argument and pull out guns and shoot each other,” said Orosa. “In the old days, people used to just fight it out without weapons.”
In the short term, Orosa says police will immediately step up enforcement of the Juvenile Teen Curfew to keep children safe.
The Juvenile Curfew Ordinance makes it illegal for anyone younger than 17 to “linger, stay, congregate, move about, wander or stroll in any public in Miami-Dade County, either on foot or in a vehicle during curfew hours,” according to the Ordinance.
Curfew hours are 11:00 p.m. through 6:00 a.m., Sunday through Thursday. Curfew hours on Friday and Saturday are 12:00 a.m. through 6:00 a.m.
There are exemptions if the juvenile is: accompanied by a parent or legal guardian or some 21 years or older that has permission to be responsible for the juvenile, is working or travelling to or from work, is traveling interstate, has written permission from a parent or guardian to run an errand, is aiding or assisting in an emergency, is travelling to or from a school, religious, civic or county-sponsored event, among other reasons.
“A great many shootings occur after midnight, midnight to 4 a.m.,” said Orosa. “Why is a 13, 14, 15 even 16 year old doing out those weekdays at 2 in the morning? Even if they are not causing problems, we need to find out why they are out there.”
Orosa plans to place more officers in troubled areas like the Liberty Square Housing Development, beef up community policing in which officers get out of their vehicles and make frequent contact with residents. He also supports efforts by pastors to both mentor more youngsters and even reach out to criminals to change their ways.
“So if you can tap into pastors,” said Orosa, “they find out a lot of information and help the community needs.”
Orosa met with more than 20 Miami-Dade pastors at police headquarters for a few hours, as D’Oench reported exclusively on Tuesday.
“How do you feel that they called you a cop with compassion?” asked D’Oench.
Orosa smiled and said, “I like it. I enjoy talking to people, talking to pastors because they are the pulse of the community. Many are the pulse of the African American community and their culture. They are very religious and they have a sense of the community.”
“We also need to take more steps to keep people from retaliation,” said Orosa. “When one life is lost, usually a family member wants to exact revenge against whoever causes the death of that person.”
Orosa says he favors a ban on extra clips in magazines for weapons, a ban on assault weapons and universal background checks for gun buyers.
“Here in a city such as ours, such as Chicago and New York, there is no reason to carry an assault weapon,” he says. “They are intended for military use, to kill people and not necessarily for self defense. Also everyone should understand that those with mental illness should not have a gun.”
Chief Orosa says he will continue brainstorming with other Police Chiefs around South Florida and will meet with pastors every three months.