Public safety has become a growing concern for some North Miami Beach residents.
Those residents have spoken up at council meetings and shared stories of falling victim to crime and have urged the council to take action against crime on their neighborhoods.
To get a better grasp of the issue, the council asked Police Chief Larry Gomer to go over public-safety issues — including police response times and crime statistics — at a June 18 council conference.
Gomer told the council that, overall — with the exception of forcible sexual offenses and burglaries — crime has decreased in the city over the past five years.
In addition, police response times have remained at about four minutes over that time period despite the department losing 17 officers in 2011 because of budget cuts.
“There is no significant drop-off in our response times to calls for service,” Gomer said, adding that the average time to arrive at a scene is about four minutes. “The reason that this is important is because staffing levels in patrol after the layoffs remain the same.”
Out of all the issues covered, shootings were the hot item of the chief’s presentation.
He told the council that the number of shootings in North Miami Beach more than doubled in 2012. For the first half of 2012, the city averaged 2.3 shootings per month, and by the end of the year that average had increased to 5.4 shootings per month.
From October through February, there were 25 shootings in the city, resulting in the department’s launch of a shooting task force.
The task force of about a dozen officers was deployed from Feb. 8 to Feb. 25 from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m.
“We targeted people we thought might be involved in some of those shootings because of their gang affiliations,” Gomer said.
A total of 49 arrests were made by the task force, and four guns were impounded by those officers.
“Once we started to make those arrests — and they weren’t all for guns or shootings, they were anything that was criminal — the word got out that we were out there,” Gomer said.
The city had no shootings during the period of increased enforcement.
“That lasted for about a month, and our next shooting wasn’t until March 20. And in the little over two months from March to May, we’ve had eight,” Gomer said.
Gomer went on to say that of those 25 shootings that took place from October to February, 11 of them resulted in someone being shot — two were fatal, and three occurred at the home of a known gang member. Ten of those shootings were gang-related.
“There seems to be an increase over a long period of time, almost a year, so obviously we have to address this issue,” Gomer said.
To improve public safety, Gomer presented a plan that includes increasing the department’s staffing, visibility and services in the community.
He would like to give his officers equipment such as body-worn cameras for police uniforms.
The chief would also like to launch new initiatives to address juvenile crime and delinquency, such as neighborhood sports teams and other youth programs.
Due to time constraints, Gomer wasn’t able to make it to the end of his presentation to go over the cost of these projects and his budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
He is expected to finish his presentation at an upcoming council meeting.