By Rebecca DellagloriaOfficers from Homestead and Miami-Dade Schools police discussed increasing gang violence in South Miami-Dade and the ways that police are combatting the problem, during a Cutler Ridge Citizen's Advisory Committee meeting Monday.
The Miami Herald
Three detectives and Capt. Tom Foglia of the Homestead Police Department, and two detectives from Miami-Dade Schools, said they are working together to fight the problem, which they said is growing across South Dade but particularly in Homestead.
Homestead Detective Lazaro Guerrero said that gangs have "always been there" but now it just seems to me that they are more organized and they are more aggressive."
Guerrero and his fellow detectives pointed to recent incidents. In November, Eusebio Estrada, 19, a member of the local gang TOYS, kept Homestead police at bay for hours , firing a barrage of bullets at them before fatally turning the gun on himself, police said. No officers were injured.
Days earlier, Eusebio, along with accomplice Samuel Mendoza, had fired shots from an assault rifle at Florida City police during a chase, Florida City police said.
In 2004, Mendoza's brother -- another purported gang member -- was convicted of shooting and partially blinding a Homestead police officer who was attempting to conduct a traffic stop.
All three gang members lived in a section of northwest Homestead near Homestead Middle School that is known for gang activity and high rates of crime, including robberies, rapes and aggravated assaults, according to an application the city filed for a $175,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice. The grant was awarded to fund the city's Weed and Seed program.
The application also said that police discovered a hydroponics lab one block from Homestead Middle School, and that 12 middle schoolers were arrested for trafficking in narcotics to finance gang activities. Other gangs that have been active in Homestead include INP, M13 and DSW, the application said.
Police Chief Alexander E. Rolle Jr. has said that at least 10 active gangs have been identified in South Dade.
Homestead police said such brazen incidents have crystallized the problem, prompting them to team up with schools police and the Miami-Dade Police gang unit. The departments are also establishing two programs at middle and high schools to help at-risk youth who are heading towards lives of crime.
Homestead Detective Antonio Aquino said gangs are able to operate outside the law because agencies don't always work together. "Our unity is where our strength is, in the new approach to deal with this problem," he said.
Copyright 2007 The Miami Herald
Miami police, schools team up against gang violence