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Attorney General Bill McCollum Press Release
South Florida is Final Location of Task Force Meetings for Attorney General's Gang Reduction Strategy
SUNRISE, FL – Attorney General Bill McCollum and members of the Coordinating Council on Gang Reduction Strategies today joined elected and government officials, law enforcement, nonprofit group leaders, school administrators and the business community in South Florida to continue implementing Florida’s first-ever statewide gang reduction strategy. The strategy is being implemented using regional task forces throughout the state, and today’s organizational session in Sunrise is the final of seven meetings of the regional task forces.
“South Florida’s community leaders have made fighting gangs a top priority, and I am pleased to see the commitment to rid our neighborhoods of gang violence and related crimes,” said Attorney General McCollum. “If we continue working cooperatively, we’re going to make a significant impact.”
Gang activity in Florida has grown to more than 1,500 active criminal gangs with over 65,000 gang members. These gangs are also the primary sales force for illicit drugs in our state and cause much of the violent crime. The prevalence of gang activity hurts business as well as neighborhoods, as organized retail theft costs the industry $32 billion nationwide every year.
Key to the strategy’s success is a cooperative and collaborative effort that addresses the three goals of stopping the growth of gangs in Florida, reducing the number of gangs and gang members, and rendering the remaining gangs ineffectual. Participants at the Region 7 Gang Reduction Task Force Organizing Session are focusing on the areas of prevention/intervention, law enforcement, and rehabilitation and re-entry. Region 7 encompasses Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe and Palm Beach counties. Once the organizational meeting has been held, the regional task force will continue operating and developing a gang reduction strategy to fit South Florida’s specific needs.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us,” said Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti, chairman of the Region 7 Gang Reduction Task Force. “Gang violence is a community problem that should be handled with the kind of law enforcement partnerships that are found in this task force.”
The law enforcement community actively participated in today’s initiative to discuss improving data collection and information exchange among state and federal authorities on gangs and gang members and their activities. This component will also focus on coordinating law enforcement and prosecution efforts by setting priorities and targeting the most problematic and dangerous gangs, gang activities and gang-related prosecutions all over Florida. Representatives from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, sheriffs’ offices, police departments, members of the Florida Highway Patrol and others were on hand to provide insight and begin planning how to meet their objectives.
An important objective is providing effective intervention programs for young people who are the most likely targets of gang recruitment and identified young gang members. Present at today’s meeting were representatives from local faith-based organizations, Boys and Girls Clubs, Urban Leagues, and other community groups whose core missions are to provide Florida’s youth with a safe and productive alternative to gangs. Also present were representatives from the Florida Association for Volunteer Action in the Caribbean and the Americas, accompanied by the National Organized Crime and Defense Director of the Jamaican Ministry of National Security.
The strategy also emphasizes the importance of working to provide gang members currently incarcerated with job training and other essential rehabilitation skills. One of the rehabilitation and re-entry objectives is to expand programs designed to help incarcerated gang members prepare for re-entry into society upon completion of their sentences. Re-entry objectives include counseling and mentoring these former gang members so they will turn toward becoming productive members of society when released. The Department of Juvenile Justice, the Department of Corrections, and other parties involved in this particular aspect of the strategy were all present today.
More information about the gang reduction strategy and a list of Coordinating Council members is available online at: http://www.safeflorida.net/safestreets.