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Attorney General Bill McCollum Press Release
Attorney General McCollum Announces Gang Reduction Proposals
~Two-day summit will lead to the development of multi-pronged strategy ~
TALLAHASSEE, FL – Attorney General Bill McCollum today announced several recommendations from this week’s two-day Gang Reduction Strategy Summit which he hosted at the Florida Capitol. The summit featured speakers and presentations from members of the Attorney General’s Gang Reduction Strategy Executive Group which consists of several partnering state agencies, and stakeholders from throughout Florida.
"As we go forward with the creation of a statewide strategy to reduce and ultimately eliminate gangs, input from our communities and the law enforcement agencies charged with protecting those communities is vital," said Attorney General McCollum. "I am grateful to our partners and the many interested parties who came forward to provide insight and to make suggestions on how we can win this fight to take back our neighborhoods."
While the overall crime rate has decreased in Florida, gang-related crimes continue to increase substantially in number. The Florida Department of Corrections reports a 61 percent increase in the number of felony convictions of gang members over the past three years. The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice reports the alarming fact that gang recruiting efforts are targeting children as young as 10 years old.
One of the key recommendations is to press for all prevention and intervention programs around Florida to involve parents and to include a parent-focused element in the program. Another recommendation is to do a more complete job of cataloging the different awareness and prevention/intervention efforts in Florida, and assessing their effectiveness.
"Attorney General McCollum has it right," said Florida Secretary of Juvenile Justice Walter McNeil. "Intervention and prevention are paramount in our efforts to keep youth from penetrating the juvenile justice system. This is a local, county, and state-wide issue and there are many parts to the solution."
Attorney General McCollum emphasized that education and outreach will be critical in the ultimate reduction of the influence of gangs on Florida’s young people, and that effort must include the involvement of local leaders.
"Our local governments and community leaders are vital in developing strategies to keep our children engaged in school and away from gang involvement," said Education Commissioner Eric J. Smith. "The Gang Reduction Strategy Summit is an excellent learning opportunity for all stakeholders to develop workable solutions for schools and classrooms around the state."
Drug trafficking and abuse remain one of the key factors in the growth of gangs in Florida. Additional recommendations from the summit include recognition that rehabilitation and re-entry efforts aimed at Florida’s juvenile and adult inmates must begin much earlier in their incarceration and be more comprehensive if those efforts are to be successful. Participants in the summit also acknowledged that the successful effort to reduce gang and drug activity will be closely tied to finding ways to reduce the demand for illegal drugs.
"The Gang Summit initiative led by Attorney General McCollum is a critical milestone in our effort to break the nexus of gangs, drugs, and violence in Florida," said Colonel Bill Janes, Director of the Florida Office of Drug Control. "The drug problem in Florida is aggravated significantly by gangs selling drugs and terrorizing our communities. To stop this, our response must be comprehensive, coordinated, and immediate."
Local and state leaders continued to voice their support for the summit’s goals and the Attorney General’s efforts, particularly in those communities that have already acknowledged the gang crisis and are working to combat it.
"As a former police director, I’m all too familiar with youth crime and gangs in particular," said Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez. "I strongly believe that prevention and early intervention programs are the keys to eliminating our youth gangs. I look forward to working with Attorney General Bill McCollum and all partners on this important issue."
The next step in the development of the Attorney General’s Gang Reduction initiative will be to review input received during the summit and formally present the resulting statewide strategy this spring. Results of the summit will be compiled and posted online at http://www.safeflorida.net/safestreets