Hours before Miracle Mile finds its first customer they are already up and out, facing a new day.
“They” are the walkers, joggers and dog-walkers who populate a scenic path along North and South Greenway Drives, running past the Coral Gables Country Club and the tree-lined route.
The health buffs’ routine was disrupted in early August by reports of an armed robbery. One of their own, 40-year-old Paris Casanova, was jogging westbound at 5:45 a.m. in the 600 block of North Greenway when he was approached by another man wielding a gun.
The man forced the jogger to the ground and was soon joined by two other males who, together, stole his iPod Shuffle, gold wedding ring valued at $500 and a $150 exercise watch, according to the police report. A fourth man drove the three from the scene after they ordered Casanova to walk away westbound and to not look back or be shot, the report said.
The assault spurred several walkers and joggers into action, led by an email and phone call blast from Margarita Delgado, 64, a public relations executive who is out most mornings walking and running along with her boxer, Jasper.
“I gathered some information from some people who run there and drafted that email,” she said. “I wrote the mayor and commission and city manager and told them I was deeply concerned with that particular incident.”
Delgado’s Aug. 16 letter to city leaders and the chief of police asked for a dedicated patrol of North and South Greenway Drives between 5 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. “Let’s avoid a second incident and becoming an easy prey for these thugs,” she wrote.
In an email response to Delgado, Dennis Weiner, chief of police for the Coral Gables Police Department, wrote: “We have been hard at work on both of the recent robberies. One occurred on North Greenway along the golf course and the other at the corner of Palermo and Le Jeune. We worked with Miami Beach, Miami and Miami-Dade Police Departments on these robberies. The data indicated that the robbery teams were active all over eastern Miami-Dade County with the likelihood that they were living within the city of Miami Beach.”
On Aug. 16, Miami Beach Police arrested eight men, including the four who were allegedly involved in the Gables robbery on North Greenway — Johnson Sanchez, 20, Marte Pena, 19, Miguel Alexander Rijo, 18, and Yoan Acosta Orta, 20.
“By analyzing data provided by our own crime reports and by analyzing other local data, we were able to identify the days and hours that these teams were operating,” Weiner’s email said. “… We will be closing both robberies and many more will be closed by surrounding agencies.”
Coral Gables Police spokesman Dean Wellinghoff said on Wednesday that the North Greenway area is being patrolled.
“We have officers in that area all the time and undercover officers who are a part of a strategic initiatives team we started a couple months back. There are guys on bikes in that area north of Coral Way all the way to Eighth Street,” Wellinghoff said.
Lynne Kafka, 51, runs the half marathon but was not training in her usual spot on North Greenway on the morning of the armed robbery due to an injury. But she was shaken when friends Delgado and Carol Damian brought the crime to her attention.
“This is very concerning. For 15 years there’s been a small group of women who run together early in the morning and have other friends who are out there running by themselves. Makes you feel vulnerable,” Kafka said. “There are quite a number of people up at that crazy hour. We’re very lucky to have it [the path]. People work and run early and have time to come back home and go to work. That’s why we get up at that crazy hour. We’re not just crazy.”
Delgado said she is happy with the city’s response.
“When people get together and express their concerns things happen for the positive,” she said Friday. “We live in a city where the public-elected leadership and administration and the chief are receptive and listen to the concerns of the public and that’s why we live here.”
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