New Miami-Dade police director focuses on saving at-risk youth

Juan Perez speaks with Local 10 about what he plans to tackle in new position

DORAL, Fla. – Newly appointed Miami-Dade Police Director Juan Perez sat down with Local 10 News reporter Amy Viteri Wednesday morning to talk about what he plans to tackle in his new position.

While Perez is the new director, he's not new to the department, having served more than 25 years with the Miami-Dade Police Department.

Perez, a graduate of Saint Thomas University, said he plans to make a dent in some of the serious issues he sees affecting the county, such as violent crime and specifically the gun violence affecting young people.

Perez said he is working to create strategies to reach out to teens in high-risk communities and to build more trust and communication with people in those neighborhoods to help solve crimes.

In late December, police arrested several people after a drive-by shooting led to the death of 7-year-old Amiere Castro in southwest Miami-Dade.

Perez said he wants the department to focus on reaching people before crimes take place and address the problems leading to the violence.

"We need to come up with innovative ways to address the at-risk kids before they get to that part of their life -- that decision they're making to pick up a gun," he said.

Perez said the department is working on new programs to reach out to at-risk children.

He also spoke about officer-involved shootings and said he is focusing on use of force training for officers. He said all police-involved shootings are investigated by an outside department, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Another big focus for Perez is new technologies and tools to help with everything from solving crimes to engaging with the community.

Perez, who previously served as deputy director, replaced Director J.D. Patterson, who worked for the police department for more than 30 years before retiring.

The Miami-Dade Police Department is the largest law enforcement agency in the southeastern U.S., serving more than 2.6 million residents.

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