Crime wave in Coral Gables?
Some residents think so and two commissioners think it’s serious enough to warrant discussion at Tuesday’s commission meeting.
Commissioner Maria Anderson, whose term expires in April after more than a decade on the commission, says the level of concern is greater than at any time she can remember and it’s one reason she’s asked that an item be placed on the agenda to address the subject.
“I was concerned. In the last almost 12 years I haven’t had as many crime emails as most recently in the last three or four months. I talk to friends who are residents, who are hearing stories. It’s nothing we are accustomed to and we are all aware and concerned.”
Ralph Cabrera, who is similarly term limited and is running for mayor, requested weekly crime statistics so that he could monitor activity in the city. From Oct. 8 through Nov. 25 there were 85 vehicle burglaries and 23 residential burglaries.
“I don’t know if that’s a high or low number but I wanted to engage our police department in discussion over this,” Cabrera said. “I’ve received emails from residents who have expressed serious concerns. That’s another reason I wanted to take this up again. I’m requesting that the manager have the chief of police there so we could talk to him.”
Acting Chief Scott Masington did not respond Tuesday.
Anderson mentions two incidents, in particular, that were alarming.
Three weeks ago, the Schultes were victims of an attempted break-in, thwarted only by the strength of hurricane glass on their home on Escobar Avenue. Someone disconnected the electricity and disabled a generator in an attempt to disarm the alarm system. The hurricane glass has a silver dollar-sized indication and it shattered but it held. The vandalism happened sometime after Mina Schultes left the home around 8:25 a.m. and her husband Bill left about two hours later. The couple returned just after 2 p.m.
Then, on Saturday, while visiting friends, the home was hit again sometime between 6:45 p.m. and 11 p.m. Thieves stole five tall metal candle stands and battery pillar candles from a well-lit entry porch at the front door. The pieces had been undisturbed since the Schultes moved to the home four years ago. Mina figures it would have taken at least two people two trips to haul away the valuables.
“For the second incident, the officer arrived promptly. For the first one, the police officer did not arrive until at least 20 to 25 minutes after we called them and the first officer was nonchalant about everything.”
When the officers and the couple searched the ground they found the electrical panel on the ground. Mina says the panel had special screws so a regular screwdriver could not have been used in its removal. All of the switches were flipped in the electric box and is at such a height that the officer, at six-foot-two, had trouble reaching the box, which is not visible from the street. Fingerprints were not taken, Mina says.
“I have heard there is a professional ring and they know what they are doing,” she says. “We feel really unsafe. We moved here from Wyoming four years ago. We don’t lock our cars or our doors there and everyone has guns there. My husband was an expert marksman in the Marine Corps. God forbid someone breaks in now. Being threatened, as we are now, I’m creeped out. We keep running outside at every little thing, wondering who the heck can be watching our house. We’re both over 65, retired, and moved here for the peace and quiet and now we have to arm ourselves to protect our home. It’s terrible.”
Leslie Lott, who also lives in what is referred to as the Golden Triangle of Coral Gables between Granada Boulevard, the Youth Center/Library and University Baptist Church across the street from the Schultes, found the family safe beaten open with iron tools and “a great deal of jewelry, including old family pieces, wedding gifts and other sentimental items” removed in May, she said in a recent email to Anderson.
“These burglars are brazen. Thank goodness there was no one in our home when they robbed us, but it is only a matter of time before there is a confrontation with a homeowner that would not end well.”
In a follow-up call Lott said she has still not recovered her valuables.
“It’s important to let people know that even if statistically the numbers are down, it’s still happening and something people need to be aware of. Historically, we’ve had great police protection and felt secure in Coral Gables but you can’t let your guard down and have a false sense of security,” she said. “It’s a big city, you have to be alert.”
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