MIAMI GARDENS, FLA. (WSVN) - Families of gun violence victims gathered for a night of bonding with law enforcement officers in Miami Gardens.
Miami Gardens Police and local city leaders came together Tuesday at Rolling Oaks Park for National Night Out to strengthen the bond between residents and officers.
“Just engage them in conversation. A lot of the time, that’s all they want. They want you to come to them,” said Miami Gardens Police Chief Delma Noel-Pratt. “Not even what has happened the last few months. It’s just important in general to engage the community.”
Several other police departments in South Florida held similar events to boost community collaboration.
Broward Sheriff’s Office deputies made a strong showing at West Park as part of the national initiative to promote community and police partnerships, which takes place annually on the first Tuesday of August.
Members of the City of Miami Police Department also gathered at Shenandoah Park to meet with residents.
“We just want to make sure that we’re maximizing the opportunity for the public to come out and know that we’re here for them, and we want to know that they’re here for us,” said Miami Police Chief Jorge Colina. “If we all get that we’re in it together, we can have a much safer city.”
The annual event came at a crucial time, as a string of fatal shootings, police call unprecedented, have plagued South Florida communities recently.
Latonia Brown is related to 27-year-old Darin Williams Jr. who was fatally shot while standing outside with his son on July 23.
“This is pain that will remain with us for the rest of our lives,” Brown said at a press conference last Thursday.
Brown said she couldn’t believe she lost her cousin to gun violence. “Darin shouldn’t have to choose between his life and the life of his son,” Brown said.
Williams’ death is just the latest example of how gun violence has gripped Miami Gardens.
“Still working very hard at solving that case, just like any others,” said Noel-Pratt.
Since the beginning of the year, nearly 20 lives have been taken. Five of them occurred in July.
In June, Miami Gardens Police saw a spike in shootings in the week after June 16 with 10 people shot, four of which were fatal.
Noel-Pratt condemned the shootings and said many of them were connected.
“It’s not OK,” she said. “We must stand up and take back our community.”
On June 23, Stephen Campbell and Donald Armstrong were fatally gunned down while sitting inside an SUV.
The Sunday before, on Father’s Day, three people were shot, near Northwest 181st Street and 41st Court.
Twenty-four-year-old Thristan Hanson and 21-year-old Michael Mathis Jr. were shot that same weekend, in separate shootings.
If you have any information on these shootings, call Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at 305-471-TIPS. Remember, you can always remain anonymous, and you may be eligible for a reward.
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