RIVIERA BEACH, Fla. - Emotion and outrage are two of the driving factors behind a new push to combat violence in the city of Riviera Beach. This, after eight people were shot at a 'Sweet 16' birthday party over the weekend. Two of those eight victims died as a result of their gunshot wounds. Police have yet to make any arrests or identify the victims.
"We do not manufacture guns here in Riviera Beach. But they are here," said Riviera Beach City Councilor Shelby Lowe. Lowe make the comments at a city council meeting Wednesday evening. Evidence of his observation came Saturday night when shots rang out at Newcomb Hall, a city-owned property.
Enter Michael Sloser. "The hardest thing in the world is to say 'no' to someone who really needs you," he said. Sloser, 70, is a Singer Island resident who was hand-picked by Riviera Beach Police Chief Clarence Williams to co-chair a new commission on social justice, which aims to combat the very violence that unfolded at Newcomb Hall.
"If we can't add something to this, than I don't want to do it," said Sloser. "I'm not doing this to kill time."
Sloser says he has been working to make Riviera Beach better for years. Currently, he serves as President of the Community Officers Association of Singer Island. "It's not something that we are going to sit around and talk about for ten years," he said.
The other co-chair is Reverand Dr. Tony Drayton of St. James Missionary Baptist Church in Riviera Beach. Together, they will search for experts on issues pertaining to health, education and social services to help get to the root of the youth violence problem in the city.
A police spokesperson and Mayor Thomas Masters say the Newcomb Hall shooting an 'isolated incident'. Other city leaders, though, disagree. "I do not think this is an isolated incident," said Riviera Beach City Councilor Dawn Pardo. "I would say that it is almost becoming the norm and that has got to stop," she said.
Mayor Masters' office, meanwhile, has announced that the city will be holding three town hall meetings in the coming weeks for residents to discuss problems and possible solutions.
Exact locations and times have yet to be determined. Preliminary planning has the meetings scheduled for the Long Pine community on September 11, the Indian Trace community on September 20 and the South End community on October 9.
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