McCollum speech on violence in the black community

Attorney General Bill McCollum spoke today at the National Conference on Preventing Crime in the Black Community that is being held in Jacksonville. Last year’s conference brought 1,600 participants. The conference is a collaborative effort sponsored by AG McCollum and Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker’s Office and a host of other Florida-based law enforcement, governmental and private organizations.

Topics to be covered:
1) The growing threat of gang violence and how it is affecting African American youth and communities
2) Successful programs and alternatives to criminal involvement and gang membership
3) The disproportionate number of African-Americans under the supervision of the criminal justice system
4) Crimes against African Americans, and how to avoid becoming a victim

Here are the notes from his speech:

• Crime affects all of our citizens, but Florida’s African American communities are disproportionately impacted. Often offenses committed by African Americans are against other African Americans, and unfortunately innocent bystanders—including children—are sometimes caught in the crossfire.

• Difficulties associated with parental influence, the need for positive role models, and peer pressure to join in the drug and gang culture are factors that have contributed to this reality.

• The key to preventing crime involves assisting and working with our children. We must teach our children how to resist the negative influences in their lives and provide opportunities to participate in all that is positive.

• Meaningful solutions to this dilemma will only come with the support and involvement of government, the private sector and community organizations in partnership with the African American community.

• We must include and support groups like the Boys and Girls Clubs, the Urban League and the NAACP that are uniting neighborhoods to counter drug dealers and gang leaders who recruit children into criminal enterprises.

Gang Reduction Strategies

• The strategy focuses on the three goals of stopping the growth of gangs in Florida, reducing the number of gangs and gang members, and rendering the remaining gangs ineffectual.

• The three pillars supporting the strategy are prevention/intervention, law enforcement efforts, and rehabilitation and reentry.

• All seven of our regional tasks forces have been set up. Each region has a chairperson, two or three co-chairs, a county chairman and five standing committees: Education, Business, Intervention/Prevention, Rehabilitation/Re-entry, Criminal Justice.

• The first case using the gang kingpin statute was filed in Central Florida earlier this month. This statute provides for a life felony for anyone convicted of leading criminal gang activities.

Economic Issues

• We, as a state and a nation, are facing an unprecedented time of economic hardship. Many Floridians have lost their homes, their jobs, and the savings they have worked for all of their lives.

• It is during times like these that our most vulnerable citizens fall prey to unscrupulous tactics perpetrated by the worst of society’s criminal element. This is most evident in the number of Mortgage Fraud cases and foreclosures we all hear daily.

• I have directed my civil and criminal enforcement units to stretch existing resources to do everything we can to protect our citizens. So far we’ve filed over a dozen cases re: foreclosure rescue fraud.

• We have also begun tackling the growing problems related to debt relief and credit repair scams. Consumers looking for relief from unending bills and accumulating debt are often scammed out of thousands of dollars before they even know they’ve become victims. This will be the next focus of our consumer protection issues.

CyberSafety Issues

• Our 50-minute CyberSafety program has been presented to more than 382,000 students in over 900 middle and high schools, with the help of our various partners including the Florida Association of School Resource Officers, the Florida Superintendants Association, the Florida Sheriffs Association and the Florida Police Chiefs Association.

• Encourage principals to sign up to receive this presentation.

• The CyberCrime Unit was featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show last month as an effort to bring nationwide attention to this issue.

• Terrie Hunnewell – our Jacksonville CyberCrime attorney – will lead a workshop session on Friday that will give an overview of cybercrime issues in Florida and around the country.