The arrest of four men in the armed robbery of a Coral Gables man who was jogging in the early morning hours along North Greenway in early August wasn’t enough to calm the fears of about 40 residents from attending a crime watch meeting Wednesday night.
The meeting, at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, was spearheaded by neighborhood activist Molly Kiely who contacted the Gables Police Department and elected officials and sent an email blast to neighbors to press for their attendance at the event. Kiely has grown concerned about crime in her North Gables neighborhood.
“I’m trying to encourage everyone to be the eyes and the ears and work with the police department,” Kiely said. “There have been so many break-ins. On Friday, on Sorolla, and the Sunday before that on Toledo and Andalusia. This is happening around us, and I send out this information, and they get more frightened, and there’s a tremendous amount of interest when all of this is going on. I’ve tried to push for four years to the residents that they have to be proactive in looking out for themselves and for their neighbors, and that will be key to doing anything in working with the police.”
Policy was not set at the meeting — many residents came simply to vent about issues including a lack of street lighting on dark city streets, poor communications from the police about crimes in their neighborhoods, and the need for technology, such as apps to send alerts to residents about crimes near them. A contingent of officers and City Commissioner Frank Quesada came to offer tips and speak to some recent successes.
“How many lights are still not fixed on Granada? The lighting on Castile and Asturia is terrible,” said North Gables resident Candido Quintana.
“We take violent crime seriously — and we have little of it,” said Gables Police Chief Dennis Weiner. “The most aggravating are property crimes, and there’s an uptick in certain areas.” Weiner said that the struggling economy is still a factor.
Vehicular burglaries, meaning items stolen from inside unlocked cars, are most prevalent between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.
“A lot of people don’t want to lock their car doors because they are afraid of broken windows. That’s less than 5 percent. People who don’t lock their car doors are victims,” Weiner said.
Residential burglaries, Weiner said, are most prevalent in the hours of 11:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. every day except Sundays. “We’re surprised about Saturdays.”
Police Maj. Raul Pedroso, Maj. Terri Molina and traffic specialist Edward Hudak also spoke to residents about a new Strategic Initiatives Team and restructuring of the department that has put more officers on the streets and has boosted the use of data-gathering tools to help prevent crimes or make arrests.
Above all, the officers stressed the importance of calling the police, no matter how minute the concern.
“In Coral Gables we dispatch everything, 99.9-percent of the time we will send an officer to you,” Maj. Pedroso said.
Follow @HowardCohen on Twitter.