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Opinion: Toughen punishment for school zone gun violence

Law enforcement 'My Future, My Choice' Editorial

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MIAMI-DADE, Fla.Miami-Dade Schools Police Chief Ian A. Moffett was born in Georgetown, Guyana. He moved to Toronto, Canada when he was six years old. Moffett moved to Miami in 1985 and earned degrees from the University of Cincinnati and Florida International University. He was also trained at the University of Louisville's Southern Police Institute. He was appointed for his current job in 2013.

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Miami-Dade Schools Police is the sixth largest police department in the southeastern United States. But our task is unique: we are protecting more than 350,000 students who attend 392 public schools.

One of our goals is to educate the younger members of our society, our students, teaching them skills and responsibilities that will help them become productive global citizens. But in the last months we have seen many incidents of gun violence plaguing our community.

The availability of guns and ammunition has created an epidemic of violence. Responsible gun owners and law enforcement are bewildered as we continue to lose young adults to cowardly acts of violence. 

We need to be able to track gun ownership as well as distribution of ammunition to minors. But in many homes, there is a total disregard for accountability, increasing the presence of guns and ammunition on the streets.

Miami-Dade Schools Police officers are committed to helping.  We have programs to assist families and assure that the children attending our schools know about choices and responsibilities.  One of these programs is called Gang Resistance Education and Training--the G.R.E.A. T. Program.

It’s an evidence-based, national and international gang and violence prevention program that has been building trust between law enforcement and communities for almost 30 years.  The program is intended to prevent delinquency, youth violence, and gang membership among students, just before they enter the prime age for introduction into gangs and delinquent behavior.

As police chief, I am honored to be a member of the G.R.E.A.T. National Policy Board.  My work extends beyond official duties, and I am currently hard at work with our elected officials trying to toughen the laws involving gun violence in school zones and parks.  I do this because in addition to being a police chief, I’m a husband, a father and a product of the South Florida community. 

We all must be mindful of the availability of weapons around our children. Our future depends on it. 

The code of silence, a tradition in some communities which inhibits citizens from helping police, is really one of irresponsibility, and it is killing our children

If we do not change, there will not be anything left of the most vulnerable members of our society. 

We have many tools at our disposal and we need to learn to utilize them for the benefit of our children. 

The federal program "If You See Something, Say Something" is a great way to start.  Be aware of your surroundings and help us control violence in our streets. Call us at 305-995-COPS (2677) and say something,  if you see something. 

Help those of us in law enforcement help you. Help us maintain schools safe and prevent our students from becoming statistics of gun violence.

-- IAN MOFFETT, MIAMI-DADE SCHOOLS POLICE CHIEF