ORLANDO, Fla. – A civil, if tense discussion about violence among teenagers took place Monday amid a recent spate of gun violence, a string of deadly shootings in Pine Hills, and an onoing public feud between two of Orange County’s top criminal justice officials.
State Attorney Monique Worrell and Orange County Sheriff John Mina discussed youth violence and needed solutions at a luncheon put on by Tiger Bay Club of Central Florida.
Christian Minor, executive director of the Florida Juvenile Justice Association, also spoke.
Last month, three people were killed and two people were hurt in a string of shootings that deputies say were committed by 19-year-old Keith Moses, who had been in and out of the criminal justice system for years.
Moses had only one adult arrest on his record, for marijuana possession. The charges were dropped by Worrell’s office because she said the amount of marijuana was less than the state’s threshold to test for the drug, so they did not have evidence to hold him further.
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Worrell on Monday reiterated her call for the Florida Legislature to pass a bill she is pushing so that people like Moses can be kept in juvenile justice programs longer. Worrell said the juvenile justice system is not equipped to handle violent juvenile offenders, and more needs to be done to keep minors who are already in the system out of the communities where they become involved in crime, in order to break the cycle.
“So we can remove them from those environments and reprogram them,” Worrell said. “I believe that they can become productive citizens. But our system is not geared towards that currently, it is only geared towards punishing them after they have already done something to harm our community.”
Mina, however, said the real problem was the people committing crimes needed to see consequences. He argued that more needed to be done to put criminals away.
“I think that the lack of consequences have meanings, even for some serious crimes, have led many of our young men and women to become emboldened,” Mina said. “If there’s nothing’s going to happen to me, nothing’s going to happen to the drug dealer or that gang member on the corner and that’s cool. He’s got all this money, he’s got a gun. He’s got a nice car. Police keep arresting him and like he’s right back out. So why not?”
Worrell and Mina both found common ground on one issue — the recent bill to allow constitutional carry in Florida. Both are against the idea, saying it will allow more young juvenile offenders when they turn 18, to go out and buy guns legally to cause crimes.
Worrell and Mina have also been involved in a feud that has spilled over to the public domain regarding Worrell’s criminal case drop rate.
Worrell says a meeting she had with Mina over the summer left her feeling uncomfortable and led her to believe he was working with Gov. Ron DeSantis to get Worrell removed from office, a charge Mina denies.
The Tiger Bay Club is a group for area political, community and business leaders.
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