Shots rang out, playing the ominous tune of injury, death, confusion and loss. The bullets made contact with four people on that Sunday, April 14. Two died at the scene. The injuries sustained by the other two were not life threatening. Community members awaken to mourn the loss lives, but show outrage that yet again, gun violence shattered the security of the housing projects in which they have to live.
Killed were sisters Stephanie and Joanna Telusme, who were not even from the area. The Broward residents traveled to the area near 6101 NW 20th Ave., in Northwest Miami-Dade for what was supposed to be a night out with friends. Around 1:25 a.m., the early morning hour turned tragic. Gunmen fired several hundreds shots from a vehicle before fleeing, killing the sisters. Before witnesses could call the authorities, police were rushing from Northside Police Station to the scene, alerted by technology installed in the area to identify the sounds of gunshots. Dubbed Shotspotter, the technology uses sensors to alert police of shooting.
Gun violence in Miami-Dade County is a reality in some Black communities in the north and south districts. In certain identified high-crime areas, after gunshots are fired, Shotspotters sensors pinpoint the exact location of the incident helping deploy police and paramedics to the scene of the crime. The county is still relying on old-fashioned policing to enhance the Shotspotter and other crime-monitoring technology. Anti-violence efforts include working with those already known for criminal activity as well as deterring new ones from joining gangs.
The shooting deaths of sisters Stephanie and Joanna Telusme earlier this month in Liberty City, sparked a community demand for stopping the killings and better gun violence reduction initiatives. The sisters were killed after a drive-by shooting at an apartment complex in the Liberty City area. Some 200-300 rounds were fired, witnesses say. The police were alerted to the scene of the shooting by the Shotspotter technology.
The county’s Shotspotter program monitors 4 square miles in the north and the same in the south districts. Shotspotters hear gun shots in less than 60 seconds, according to its website.
“Shotspotters triangulate the sound of gunfire and pinpoint where they occur,” said Juan Perez, director of the Miami-Dade Police Department. “This gives us an ability to respond quickly to the scene.”
In 2016, The Urban Institute found that 80 percent of gunshot incidents are never reported to the authorities. “Shotspotter gives us an ability to pick up an alert before the call comes in,” Perez said.
Miami-Dade police also use the technology to quickly administer aid to the injured and identify vehicle or people fleeing the area.
“Shotspotters pinpoints where the shots went off and give us an ability to find casings and match them to other shootings in the area,” he said.
The technology helps with some investigations because, by knowing exactly where the crime took place, “it helps collect evidence where we didn't have that ability before.”
To help with the aftermath of a shooting incident, the State Attorney’s Office is working with the police department to help investigate shootings and other crimes, as well as provide support for the victims.
“Anytime there is a shooting we are called immediately,” said Tierrel Mathis, an attorney with the State Attorney’s Office Northside Gun Violence Reduction Initiative. The initiative began circa 2015 and the team members are on call 24 hours a day.
“We come out to the scene to assist the police with their investigation to help get the case along further,” she said.
County police plan to expand the Shotspotter coverage area by some 14 extra square miles throughout the county, with a focus on South Miami-Dade, where communities such as Naranja and Goulds experience high amounts of gun-related incidents. In addition to Shotspotters, the county police are working on acquiring cameras and license plate readers to add to their criminal activity monitoring arsenal.
The expansion is underway, said County Commission Chairwoman Audrey Edmonson.
“We have cameras, as well as Shotspotters,” Edmonson said. The county has identified six areas where to place the cameras and Shotspotters. “We want to expand those right now to those areas.”
The county is starting a Group Violence Initiative and a gang prevention strategy as part of its anti-violence initiative project. With an expected cost of $2 million, the project seeks to unite a cohort of law enforcement professionals, clergy, community activists and former gang leaders to deliver a unified anti-violence message, offer counseling, services and alternatives to group members. The Group Violence Initiative is set to begin operating in June.
“We’ll have boots on the ground – that’s people who are already in the community, know the community, and who knows who these perpetrators are,” said Edmonson.
The Group Violence Initiative was created by the National Network for Safe Communities at John Jay College during the 1990s. The initiative seeks to target the small group of individuals who are driving the violence in inner-city neighborhoods.
“We have seen invariably that it is really a small number of people who are committing the most amount of violence,” said a spokesman from the college. “It is usually less than one percent that is committing 60 percent of the violence. They are not individual actors but people involved in groups.”
One of the strategies of the initiative is to have a face-to-face meeting between the groups behind the violence in the community and law enforcement officials, community activists and social services providers. The focus of the meeting is to offer help, counseling and a pathway out of a life of crime.
“We are getting it done,” Edmonson said. “There will be zero tolerance for gun violence.”