One night in March, Casanova Atwater was gunned down in the parking lot of Goulds Arthur Mays Villas public housing community just yards from a video surveillance camera.
But when homicide detectives looked for the valuable footage, they discovered that the camera no longer worked. Somebody long ago ripped out the wiring.
Such is the frustration of maintaining security at the projects, a sprawling brown-painted 144-unit community long known here as Chocolate City. The murder was the third in the same vicinity during a five-month span, underscoring the crime woes in this impoverished South Miami-Dade neighborhood.
The 22-camera system, installed less than two years ago at the cost of $118,246 to taxpayers, has been largely ineffective. Cameras are often sabotaged or moved to face other directions whether by residents or outsiders is unknown.
Crime in the projects has been a recent sore spot for residents, so much so that on Monday Miami-Dades Deputy Mayor Russell Benford will join police, social service providers and clergy going door to door to offer help.
The anti-gang effort, dubbed One Stop, has been held in other Miami-Dade inner-city neighborhoods wracked by violence but never before in South Miami-Dade.
It is certainly needed at this complex. First opened in 1976, the Arthur Mays housing community at 11341 SW 216th St., was named after a prominent black South Miami-Dade landowner who donated land for a school.
The townhouse-style homes are run by Miami-Dades Public Housing and Community Development, which administers federal funds for nearly 10,000 units of public housing.
Gregg Fortner, the agencys executive director, did not address the cameras but said in a statement: We work in partnership with law enforcement, community providers, and especially our residents, to make our neighborhoods safer.
FEW BRIGHT SPOTS
Violence in Chocolate City has ebbed and flowed over the decades. But the crushing poverty has remained constant, as has complaints from many residents, longtime and newer, most African American.
There are bright spots. An after-school daycare program at the main office teems with children, as is the Head Start program center, filled with colorful decorations, books and toys.
But Stephanie McIntosh, the elected head of the residents council who frequently clashes with management, lists a host of issues such as mold in the buildings, broken sidewalks and trash heaped across the patchy lawns of the 12-acre complex.
On a recent weekday, McIntosh stopped at the parking lot and grassy area where the shooting happened, where dope peddlers and others often congregate at night. The area is a natural gathering point, just yards from a police substation staffed only during the day with clear sightlines in each direction and open corridors.
Here, where the crime is contained, there are not enough cameras, McIntosh said.
Nearby, a teddy bear-and-candle memorial for Atwater remains, nearly two months after his slaying. Atwater, 25, lived at the complex off-and-on for years. His sister resides there, and before her, in the same unit, lived their grandmother.
A dropout of Southridge High, his family said, Atwater had recently begun working to obtain his GED. Though he sported dreads and gold teeth, said mother Patricia Atwater, 43: He wasnt a thug. He just likes the style.