Cutler Bay police and town staff are hoping the implementation of Segways, additional officers, and increased education will improve department visibility and help deter a growing crime rate.
According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), total part 1 crimes in Cutler Bay increased from 1,829 in 2013 to 1,973 in 2014. Despite the 7.9 percent growth, almost every crime category saw a decrease other than an additional murder and a significant increase in larceny crimes.
Part 1 crimes are aggravated assault, forcible rape, murder, robbery, arson, burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft.
“When you start looking at the data, a lot of larceny has gone up,” Town Manager Ralph Casals said. “If you look at the data, it looks like one of the major jumps went from the larceny with 1,382 …185 more incidents. That’s the shoplifting incidents that skew the numbers.”
The clearance rate, measuring the crimes cleared by the police, is up from 34.8 percent to 35.4 percent.
“With clearance rates, you clear the call in a timely fashion,” Casals said. “We take pride in making sure those numbers are high so that we respond on time and also clear the call.”
Casals said the town is not filling a position for a new records clerk in order to put an additional officer on the streets.
“For more visibility and as I mentioned, the town council is going into next budget season trying to see if we can add some more bodies,” Casals said. “Obviously these are all crime stats, but our biggest thing is making sure we have more visibility on the streets.”
The town recently purchased two Segways for police on patrol. Major Julie Miller, chief of the Cutler Bay policing unit, said the new additions will help visibility within the community.
“[The Segways] are really for high visibility,” Miller said. “When we are around in our cars, people know we are coming. They are all marked up with our logos. But when you put a Segway out there in a business, people take notice. People get accustomed to seeing our police cars and they really pass it by. You see something new like a Segway and you take notice. People know you are there. It encourages people to not commit a crime that day or not go somewhere else.”
Miller said there are currently 56 police officers in the department, while Casals said the newest police officer should be on the street in mid-July.
“It is important to note: the percentage of cases closed with an arrest or prosecution is just 18% nationally, while in Cutler Bay ours is almost double that rate, at 35.4 percent,” Mayor Peggy Bell said.
The police are working closely with crime watch groups throughout the town, including the neighborhood resource unit (NRU) and homeowner’s associations.
“(NRU) is trained and certified in doing security surveys,” Miller said. “We have recently sent them out to businesses and residents. They will survey the property, business, or residence and give you tips on how to make your property for your business more secure. That has been our target this year, to make sure that number comes down.”
Miller said that police are also educating the community to lock their doors and keep valuables out of plain sight.
The FDLE data states that the population of Cutler Bay grew from 42,035 in 2013 to 42,944 in 2014. Crime decreased by 7.6 percent from 2012 though 2013.
“The 2014 data reflects a decrease in major crimes, such as robbery burglary, motor vehicle theft and rape,” Bell said. “Crimes such as larceny are up, compared with 2013. This is unfortunately to be somewhat expected when you have a major regional mall located within your municipal boundaries.”
“Our police and town staff will continue to encourage the business community to install cameras on their property to reduce these types of crimes. Additionally, our police department has trained, certified officers who will, at no charge, provide a business or resident a security survey to assist in protecting their property.”
This April, crimes were down 10.87 percent compared to April 2014. This May, crimes went down 9.59 percent compared to May 2014.
“Our town has always provided the police with the very best equipment to most effectively do their job,” Bell said. “The new Segways are the latest and best technology. These Segways will, in particular, be used in the mall areas, enhancing our bicycle patrols.”