Every neighborhood is not equal. Some are tougher to grow up in, much more dangerous, where a simple dispute can end in a burst of gunfire. Now, a South Florida group is trying to settle the disputes in a program called Squash the Beef. What’s that mean? Here is 7News investigative reporter Patrick Fraser with the story.
It started in New Orleans, given a name common on the streets.
Willie Muhammad, New Orleans Squash the Beef: “It’s called Squash the Beef hotline. We use that terminology because that is the terminology that they use in these communities.”
Squash the beef, settle a dispute by calling a hotline. Police are not involved. The people upset with each other meet with a mediator to help them work things out.
Willie Muhammad: “We consider this to be a proactive initiative. We are trying to get there before somebody gets shot and looses their life.”
It worked so well in New Orleans. Nikki Kancey called Willie Muhammad to find out how she could create the same program in Miami’s inner city neighborhoods.
Nikki Kancey, Miami Squash the Beef: “You call the hotline, we get all of the facts and sit down and have a mediation.”
A skeptic would say, “If police cant stop the violence, how can anyone else?”
But the people who will mediate aren’t just anyone else. They know these streets. They are trusted here. But of course, even that that doesn’t guarantee everyone who lives here will sit down with them.
Man 1: “I think it’s a pretty good idea, because police don’t always know what’s between people.”
Man 2: “It’s not going to work because they’re going to get [expletive] up! So the police should handle it.”
Charlie: “Anytime I get into a situation, I would like a brother to come to me and say, ‘Charlie, come here man. It ain’t worth it bro.'”
For Nikki, it’s something that needs to be done because each dispute settled could be a life saved…
Nikki Kancey: “Our hope is that we can spread the word that the hotline exists. Our hope is that we can mediate conflict to prevent anymore youth or innocent people from losing their lives.”
City of Miami Commissioner Keon Hardemon knows what is needed in the rough neighborhoods. He grew up in Liberty City.
Keon Hardemon, City of Miami Commissioner: “Why wouldn’t a child at 13 years old want to sit down and discuss how they can solve whatever issue they have with another person, rather than that person pull their AK-47 out, and shoot them down to the ground.”
And there is a simple fact at work here, many people in Liberty City, Overtown and Little Haiti won’t call the police and won’t talk to the police.
Nikki Kancey: “I believe in our communities, there is a distrust of the police, distrust of law enforcement.”
One downside: those billboards in New Orleans and the cards and flyers in Miami cost money. Nikki has paid for it out of a non profit she organized…
Keon Hardemon: “Our issues grow if you ignore them.”
But while we were talking to Commissioner Hardemon, he had some news for Nikki.
Keon Hardemon: “I will be giving them at least $50,000 this year to help spread that message to make it all work for this community.”
Nikki Kancey: “That’s a blessing. I had no idea. That is definitely a blessing. I think we can reach so many more people.”
Such a simple idea, but since it’s coming from inside the neighborhoods from people that are trusted, Squash the Beef just may work.
If you live in Miami-Dade County and you have a dispute with someone, the number to Squash the Beef is (305) 316-2842.
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