By Chris Pierre Louis
More than 100 local students and adults are attending a conference in Orlando where special attention is being given to solutions to reduce juvenile crime.
The students, including several from Boca Raton and Delray Beach, are at the 28th National Conference on Preventing Crime in the Black Community at the Rosen Hotel and Convention Centre.
The three-day conference is designed to build a healthy relationship between the black community and law enforcement and create a platform to share ideas that will reduce crime in the black community, said Robert Dodd, one of the chaperones on the trip. It is also hoping to bring awareness and emphasizing the need to stop juvenile crime, Dodd said.
“This conference is the perfect opportunity for law enforcement, local leaders, and members of the community to work together to share new ideas and strategies to prevent crime in our communities,” said Dodd of KOP Mentoring Network, formerly the Knights of Pythagoras Mentoring Network.
Among the speakers at the opening session were Attorney General Pam Bondi, Orlando Police Chief Paul Rooney and
Rooney told the story of a 17-year-old boy who police shot and killed last September in the Conway neighborhood.
The armed black teenager, a suspect in a burglary, had opened fire on two male victims before turning his weapon on the Orlando Police Department officers who fired back, Rooney told the crowd.
The positive decisions you make now can frame your lives and ensure your futures aren’t derailed by incarceration — or an early death like that 17-year-old boy, Rooney told the young people in attendance.
“I’m big on real life stories,” he said. “I’m hoping that they get it and see it and say ‘that’s not the road I want to go down. Gangs, drugs, robbery, whatever it may be. That’s just not the road I want to go down.'”
Community involvement and partnerships that are bred through events like this annual conference are credited for having a direct impact on the drop in youth crime rates in Palm Beach County, said Dodd, a longtime volunteer mentor with KOPMN.
The organization works with kids in Delray Beach, Boynton Beach and Boca Raton to promote, finishing high school, furthering their education and living a drug free life.
“For them, it’s inspiring, it’s educational, it’s informative,” said Dodd, who has been attending the conference for 15 years. “The people who put together this conference are trying to make sure that we can personally hit them as hard as possible so that they can understand that we’re here for them and we’re here to impact them… and they can see something else besides what they are used to.”
Showing black children and teenagers that their community cares, has a profoundly positive impact on their future, Dodd said
The conference was established by the attorney general’s office in 1986 to showcase innovative ideas that encourage crime prevention in the black community.
The Council on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys, housed within the attorney general’s office, will hold meetings during the conference. The council studies conditions affecting black men and boys, including: homicide rates, arrest and incarceration rates, poverty, violence, drug abuse, death rates, disparate annual income levels, school performance, and health.
The trip is sponsored by the Urban League of Palm Beach County and the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.