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At Annual Conference, Fla. Officials Talk Ways To Prevent Crime In The Black Community

Florida Channel
More than 1,100 people attended this year's 32nd National Preventing Crime in the Black Community Conference in Orlando.

Attorney General Pam Bondi and the head of Florida’s Juvenile Justice system are just some of the speakers at this year’s annual conference focusing on preventing crime in the black community.

On Thursday, Attorney General Pam Bondi spoke to 1,100 attendees during this year’s two-day 32nd National Preventing Crime in the Black Community Conference in Orlando. It included law enforcement, community leaders, and hundreds of kids.

“Florida’s crime rate is at a 45-year low, and that’s because of many of you who are here in this room here today,” said Bondi. “Having said that, though, that’s great news, but we know our work is far from done. Violent crime and drug abuse still claim thousands of lives in the country. Homicides were up a bit this year, but with good reason because of the horrible tragedy Orlando experienced.”

And with the programs and workshops offered at this year’s conference, Bondi believes it will help many of the attendees.

“If we can make one life safer by being here today, then it’s worth it. Just one! But, there will be hundreds impacted, I’m sure,” she added.

One of the ways many speakers at the conference spoke about to help prevent crime within the black community is positive law enforcement involvement. And, Bondi says Orlando Police Lt. Debra Clayton—a friend of hers—truly exemplified that. She’s the police officer who was shot and killed outside an Orlando Wal-Mart in January. Clayton’s accused killer led the police on a nine-day manhunt.

“She was one of those police officers who would go out on the weekends and buy refrigerators for people,” Bondi continued. “She was buying clothes for kids who needed clothes. She was doing everything right. She worked tirelessly to help children from low-income families and she was a major advocate for preventing crime in the black neighborhoods.”

And, Pat Smith with the Florida Department of Children and Families said having a positive role model in your life can help as well.

“I’m not even sure where I would be today, if it had not been for good teachers, friends, and family members molding and shaping me, especially my Uncle Roosevelt,” she said. “You see, I grew up in a fatherless home and life wasn’t easy for me, especially watching my mom struggling to raise four children alone. There were so many times when I felt helpless as a young person because I thought there was nothing that I could do.”

Among Thursday’s workshops was one hosted by the Florida Commission on Offender Review. The parole commission’s chair Melinda Coonrad said workshop attendees heard from three former inmates who turned their life around as well as a family who’s child was killed.

“They made the decision to forgive the 19-year-old boy who shot and killed their daughter,” she said.

A lot of the conference was focused on Florida’s black youth. And, Florida Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Christy Daly said one of her many goals includes reducing the number of minority youth arrests.

“When we looked at the data, what we saw was that minority youth were overrepresented at every single point along the juvenile justice process from the initial arrest all the way to commitment and adult transfers,” she said. “We knew it was important to include in our reform work a plan to reduce minority youth contact—thereby helping us meet our larger goal of preventing more youth of coming in contact with our system overall.”

And, she said one of their successful reform initiatives is DJJ’s civil citation program. In fact, she added since 2011, more than 41,000 youth have benefited from the program.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.

Sascha Cordner has more than ten years of public radio experience. It includes working at NPR member station WUFT-FM in Gainesville for several years. She's worked in both radio and TV, serving in various capacities as a reporter, producer and anchor. She's also a graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in telecommunications. She is the recipient of 15 awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and Edward R. Murrow. Her award-winning stories include her coverage on the infamous “Dozier School for Boys” and a feature titled "Male Breast Cancer: Lost in the Sea of Pink." Currently, Sascha serves as the host and producer of local and state news content for the afternoon news program "All Things Considered" at WFSU. Sascha primarily covers criminal justice and social services issues. When she's not reporting, Sascha likes catching up on her favorite TV shows, singing and reading. Follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter:@SaschaCordner.