Juan Perez, the Director of the Miami-Dade County Police Department (MDCP), explains how the MDCP has used community partnerships in an effort to prevent gun violence at an early stage of its trajectory.
Last Year, the MDCP launched a Youth Outreach Unit (YOU), which pairs 50 officers with 50 at-risk youth. YOU officers mentor these youth, follow up with their teachers to ensure their grades and attendance are on track, visit their households to identify services their families need, and then work with government and community organizations to link the youth and their families with appropriate services. The program addresses areas outside of the typical crime-fighting message, working closely with the local Juvenile Services Department to intervene with youth before they become involved in the state juvenile or adult criminal justice systems. The YOU program also focuses on youth who have already been involved with the criminal justice system due to previous criminal behavior. The county's Juvenile Assessment Center (JAC) is part of the county's Juvenile Service Department. It keeps records on each youth taken into custody. Whenever possible, JAC puts youth in programs that divert them from the criminal justice system. Between 80 and 90 percent of these youth complete diversion programs and don't reoffend. JAC keeps records on each youth's background, whether they are in a single-parent household, whether a parent has been incarcerated, any history of trauma or abuse, school attendance, and other factors . These data are analyzed to identify high-risk youth, most of whom have not yet picked up a gun. These are the youth targeted by the YOU program. Beyond overall gun-violence statistics, data are used to track these youth over time, even for years before conclusions can be drawn about the impact of the YOU program.