Miami Gardens / Opa-locka

Miami Gardens

Stats show crime drop in Miami Gardens

 

ldixon@MiamiHerald.com

A new report released last week shows a decrease in crime in Miami Gardens.

The city has the 51st-highest crime score out of 437 cities included in the rankings, based on the Congressional Quarterly Press’s newly released 2012 city crime rankings. Miami Gardens’ crime score is 125.76 incidents per 100,000 residents, down from the previous year’s score of 154.88.

CQ calculated the statistics from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting program, which tracks violent crimes and property crimes for cities with populations above 75,000. The program tracks: murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and motor vehicle theft.

While general crime may be down in the city, the number of murders in the city has remained at about 21 to 25 per year since 2007, according to Florida Department of Law Enforcement data.

Miami Gardens’ crime score is also higher than other similarly-sized cities in Florida, such as Clearwater and West Palm Beach. And only one city in Florida has a higher score: Miami with 160.24 per 100,000 residents. Camden, N.J., ranks the highest nationally with a score of 606.38.

Gary Feinberg, a criminology professor at St. Thomas University, said that the decreasing rate of crime in Miami Gardens follows state and national trends, but the city is a bit of anomaly when it comes to murder. And he believes other factors like unemployment and poverty may be contributing to the problem.

“Probably the best predictor of violent crimes like murder isn’t race, it’s poverty,” Feinberg said. “The city also has a significantly smaller number of elderly people, who tend to reduce the crime problem, and a significantly higher youth population, which tends to aggravate the violence problem.”

Miami Gardens has adopted what it calls a “zero tolerance” policy on crime, and interim Police Chief Paul Miller said that won’t be changing, despite recent allegations of harassment.

Alex Saleh, owner of 207 Quickstop, has alleged in a lawsuit against the city, and in store surveillance videos provided to the Miami Herald, that officers harassed and profiled his employees and customers hundreds of times, often using stop-and-frisk tactics. His employee, Earl Sampson, has been arrested for trespassing 62 times despite working at the store since 2011. None of the arrests led to charges.

“People understand that it’s a process and it takes time, and that there’s an investigation,” Miller said at the city’s “Coffee with the Cops” event last week. “In the meantime, we still have to go on with our day-to-day operation.”

Moving forward, Professor Feinberg said the police have to deal with a “tricky balance” between aggressively targeting crime hot spots and still gaining community trust. He added that a subculture of violence may be developing, which will need to be addressed.

“What really is needed, is to teach young people to resolve their problems peacefully,” said Feinberg.

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