Miami Gardens / Opa-locka

Miami Gardens

Miami Gardens takes steps to combat crime

 

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ldixon@MiamiHerald.com

Miami Gardens is taking a “zero-tolerance policy” toward crime after a recent spike of shootings and homicides, Mayor Oliver Gilbert said Wednesday night, after several city residents came to a City Council meeting to complain about the violence.

Gilbert said police will strictly enforce even the most minor traffic offenses, and every person suspected of an arrestable offense will be arrested.

The council also unanimously agreed to ask voters for approval to borrow up to $10 million more than previously discussed, with part of the money going to police technology such as cameras, ShotSpotter microphones, and license-plate readers. The $10 million would be in addition to $50 million previously discussed.

The council has not set a date for the bond referendum. The money also would go to a new senior center and improvements to parks and public pools.

The new $10 million also would go to construction management, as City Manager Cameron Benson said the job of pricing out costs and planning for city projects could no longer be handled exclusively by city staff.

The new “zero-tolerance policy” was not an actual ordinance or resolution approved by city leadership.

“We have to make people feel uncomfortable with breaking the law,” Gilbert said. “There will be law and order in this city. Everything depends on it.”

Gilbert mainly emphasized the efforts after numerous residents, including many making their first trip to a council meeting, voiced their concerns over the violence and the fear people are living with. Joseph Young, a member of the Crestview Homeowner’s Association, said that when residents report crime, police officers drive to their homes and bring unwanted attention.

“Why should I report it? Because, you’re putting me in danger,” Young said. “There’s a lot of citizens around here who know about these crimes, but they’re afraid to say because if they do they’re coming in the line of judgment.”

Deputy Police Chief Paul Miller said that officers respond without “malicious intent” when they drive to the resident’s homes, adding that they typically respond to active calls like a suspicious character in a neighborhood. Miller added that communication needs to improve between residents and police.

“Civilians need to understand how to call in, and officers need to understand that not in all cases can they make contact,” said Miller.

The mayor urged residents to use Crimestoppers to report things anonymously if they fear being targeted. He also said that the city will be sending emails to residents and adding a special section to the city’s website to emphasize the plans they have to deal with crime in the area.

“Those people who will do those inhumane things, those extraordinarily evil things, they ought to know that we won’t give up,” said Gilbert.

Over 60 arrests have been made in the past two weeks and police have seized multiple guns, according to Miller. He said officers also arrested a 2011 homicide suspect, but he did not specify how many of the arrests were for serious crimes. He said none of the arrests were suspects in the most recent shootings.

“Our goal is to cut down on the number of incidents,” Miller said. “It negates a lot of the things we’ve been doing over the last five years to reduce crime.”

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