With Miami Reeling from Gun Violence, Advocates and Crime Survivors Promote Successful Violence Prevention and Victim Service Models to Improve Safety

For Immediate Release: July 21, 2021

Media Contact: Julien Martinez: 347-229-2517, [email protected]

With Miami Reeling from Gun Violence, Advocates and Crime Survivors Promote Successful Violence Prevention and Victim Service Models to Improve Safety

The Newark Community Street Team has reduced gun violence by 50% in Newark with community-based approaches 

Trauma Recovery Centers have served the most harmed and least helped crime victims across the country

MIAMI – With communities across Miami reeling from spikes in violence, Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice (CSSJ) and Dream Defenders promoted alternative approaches to improving public safety, serving crime victims, and addressing trauma. The discussion, which featured CSSJ National Director Aswad Thomas and CSSJ co-founder Aqeela Sherrills, focused on two models proven effective at reducing crime while addressing the needs of crime victims – Newark’s violence reduction model and Trauma Recovery Centers. The meeting brought together community leaders, crime victims, Miami-Dade county elected leadership, and local hospital leadership to see how these two evidence-based models could inform how Miami Dade County utilizes funds from the American Rescue Plan to respond to post-pandemic violence in Miami.

Aqeela Sherrills, who tragically lost his son to gun violence, leads the Newark Community Street Team, a community driven strategy in partnership with city government that has reduced gun violence by 50 percent – the lowest rate in 60 years. Because of the partnership between city government and community, law enforcement did not fire a single shot in all of 2020.

“Funds from the American Rescue Plan give Miami Dade County the opportunity to be a model for the rest of the country on what violence prevention, victim services, and trauma recovery could look like,” said Sherrills. “In Newark, we used a community-based violence intervention model that worked in partnership with the city. You can’t have public safety without the public. We provided community-based addiction, reentry and trauma support, as well as street intervention, because we know that all these things interrupt cycles of violence.”

On victim support, Sherrills added: “From a victims compensation system that did not serve 90 percent of crime victims, we were able to completely restructure the victim’s compensation system in the state to better serve crime victims in partnership with the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office.”

Aswad Thomas, himself a survivor of gun violence, has successfully advocated for 34 Trauma Recovery Centers across the country.  “Trauma Recovery Centers provide proven and comprehensive care, advocacy, and outreach for survivors of violence, especially those that are most harmed by violence and least helped by the justice system”, said Thomas. “Unaddressed trauma is an epidemic in our communities and Trauma Recovery Centers help survivors heal and interrupt cycles of crime.”

As part of President Biden’s recently-announced Community Violence Initiative, Miami Dade County and Mayor Daniella Levine Cava will participate in a cohort of cities receiving technical assistance to implement community-based violence prevention models, like Newark’s, and trauma recovery models such as those that exist around the country.