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Miami-Dade School, City Chiefs Address Youth Safety

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Some might call it the Newtown effect. In the wake of the shooting rampage that left 27 dead at Sandy Hook Elementary; South Florida agencies gathered Friday to see what they could do to prevent similar tragedy from striking here.

"The innocent lives that were lost there, that's something that touches everyone," Miami-Dade's Mayor Carlos Gimenez said just before the roundtable meeting began.

Mayor Gimenez a grandfather himself felt compelled to take action following the shooting.

Teaming up with Miami-Dade School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho they decided to bring nearly three dozen agencies together to discuss youth violence.

"I am tired. I have buried over 40 children in four-and-half years," Carvalho told the packed conference room at Vizcaya.

With the fourth largest school district in the nation covering some 400 schools is not an easy task. Just ask the school resource officers protesting outside the meeting.

"They are not the people on the ground," Howard Giraldo, president of the Fraternal Order of Police #133 said.

The union made up of Miami-Dade School resource officers initially was not invited to be a part of the round table. Command staff attended instead. Dade County is one of the few school districts with it's own police force.

Over the past six years, though the police staff has dwindled. According to the union, they have 71 uniformed officers to patrol 357 elementary and middle schools.

"And we do it day in and day out,"  Giraldo said.

When asked if it was adequate Giraldo fired back, "No. No it's not.  Absolutely not. Adequate is the outcry right now.  Adequate is we need to have officers for every middle school, for every high school, for every elementary school."

Superintendent Carvalho admitted he would love to cover every school with a school officer but it's not realistic.

"Let's face it, when we spend $30 million a year in security, but the state only funds $10 million of that, to fully staff our schools with one officer per school is an amount of money that would have to come out of teachers salaries and education programs," Carvalho said.

Instead he wanted to come up with ideas that are out of the box.

"It must be less about metal detection and more about mental detection," Carvalho said. "The ability to identify early on key indicators in children that may be precursors to violent acts in the future."

The hope is that this meeting can stir new ideas to prevent violence.  Already the mayor is suggesting using school bond money to fortify schools.

"We need to take concrete steps. Not talk about it. I'm not here to talk about it. I'm here to do,"  Gimenez said.

Friday's meeting is the first of multiple meetings.  The group plans to break into smaller groups to address safety concerns.  They hope by pulling together various agencies they can innovate and put in place new programs, policies, even laws to prevent youth violence.

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