Preventing crime is different from stopping gun violence. Preventing crime requires vigilance, persistence, compassion, imagination — a real sense of community.
Government should always be in the business of preventing crime. Doing so will place us in the posture of continually investing in our children through programming; it fixes our gaze on creating opportunities that make us a more-inclusive community, one that recognizes the clear inequities that attach at birth to some of our neighbors — often the results of generational poverty — and show the clear failure of our institutions.
The Peace and Prosperity Plan — presented by Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava and approved by the County Commission — if financed properly and faithfully, will root out crime where it festers. The plan invests in children and families in a way that we hope will break the vestiges of deprivation.
It is a good start, but more will be required.
Our investment cannot be limited to the money the county would gain from renaming AmericanAirlines Arena for FTX, a cryptocurrency exchange. We must be committed to removing the deficits in education, access and opportunity for children and families by creating pathways and possibilities to a better American Dream. I include families because, while children will be the beneficiaries of our investment, ultimately, that’s whom we are trying to strengthen. Creating opportunities for children creates opportunities for better and stronger families.
Our efforts must sustain themselves even when the cameras are off and tragedy — mass tragedy — is not at hand. We cannot be the community that pays attention to poverty and crime only when the world bears witness to gun violence and our image as a tourist destination is threatened.
Our efforts to end generational poverty are noble and necessary, however, our efforts must bear fruit for others to eat. They are a long-term fix; they don’t necessarily address gun violence today. Often, we dangerously conflate poverty with crime, and then we use crime as a shorthand for violence. As a result, we incorrectly generalize that all poor people are criminals and all criminals are violent. That’s not fair to the impoverished, and it leads to a dangerous misdiagnosis of our communal sickness — and a prescription that won’t necessarily cure gun violence and the pain it inflicts.
Gun-violence prevention programs are helpful, but policing and community participation are essential. We must create environments that are not accommodating for violent actors. Criminals must feel uncomfortable walking and driving around with guns. Often, the policing that’s necessary to curtail gun violence is not something that we like to acknowledge or engage in; things such as probation checks; random DUI checks; enhanced enforcement of traffic laws; task forces that target specific criminal activities and enterprises; and enhanced attention to known gang members and problem areas.
We must also use code enforcement and nuisance abatement. We have to shut down non-permitted gatherings and parties. Every venue is not meant to house every activity.
All this can be done without violating civil rights, while honoring the Constitution. Some people will criticize these efforts as harsh and overly intrusive, but the civil right that I value most is my life and safety. People want to be alive and feel safe. And a disproportionate percentage of the victims of gun violence are Black.
These are all things that we can do as a community and government, but there are efforts that we can also make as individuals and families:
Parents, raise your children, don’t just let them grow up. There is a difference. To everyone who has a killer in their house, note the biblical proclamation that to live by the sword is to die by this word remains true. Just substitute “gun” for “sword.”
If your child is engaging in a life of crime and violence, violence eventually visits them — and you. Get them out of that life or get them out of your house.
To all the significant others that are purchasing guns legally and giving them to your “Bae” who can’t legally purchase a gun — stop.
We should all agree at this point that there are far too many guns on the street, and that guns are too easily obtained. Smoking more cigarettes will not give you less cancer. Having access to more guns will not give you less gun violence.
Let’s make it harder to get guns and bullets.
Oliver Gilbert represents District 1 on the Miami-Dade County Commission. He is former Miami Gardens mayor.