Residents of a North Gables neighborhood are on edge after more than a dozen vehicles were burglarized in a two-hour period last weekend. Coral Gables police were looking for three suspects in the case and members of the community were looking to city officials for solutions.
The thefts took place between 3 and 5 a.m. Saturday along several streets including the 1000 block of Capri Street, the 800-1100 blocks of Monterey, Pizzaro and Wallace streets, and the 1100 and 1200 blocks of Cordova Street. In total, 14 vehicles were burglarized and a 2013 silver Honda Civic was stolen.
On Sep. 10, police located the stolen vehicle and arrested Brayan Reyes, 18, and 16-year-old Mariely Bermudez. Reyes was charged with two counts of vehicle burglary and one count of trespassing. Bermudez was charged with one count of vehicle theft, six counts of vehicle burglary and one count of trespassing.
Ariel Fernandez, whose wife’s car was burglarized, wrote to the City Commission and city leaders saying the thefts reflected poor leadership in the police department.
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“Saturday night’s incidents have placed the trust of residents in our police department in question once again,” Fernandez said in his email.
Fernandez, the city’s police union and others have criticized City Manager Cathy Swanson-Rivenbark’s decision to appoint former Hollywood Police Chief Frank Fernandez as assistant city manager of public safety, arguing that his position weakens the role of Police Chief Ed Hudak. Frank Fernandez oversees the police and fire departments along with information technology and emergency management. The city’s other assistant city manager, Peter Iglesias, oversees infrastructure, development and public works.
Swanson-Rivenbark said there are no plans to change the current organizational structure.
“We restructured the assistant city manager positions so that they would really be able to provide a resource for all of our departments,” Swanson-Rivenbark said.
Ariel Fernandez also voiced frustration about the lack of policing in the area, especially given that it was the Labor Day holiday weekend. The city announced a plan for neighborhood team policing and safety aides to assist in community policing but Ariel Fernandez said he hasn’t seen them in his neighborhood.
Frank Fernandez said that the neighborhood safety aides and team policing officers have been in training and should be in place by Monday. He also said that an officer was on patrol in that North Gables neighborhood on Saturday morning but was not on those particular blocks when the burglaries were happening.
“The officer was just south of there doing an area check,” Frank Fernandez said.
City Commissioner Vince Lago responded to Ariel Fernandez by email, saying, that “I unequivocally expect the implementation ASAP of the initiatives you detailed,” and that he would bring up questions about the police bureaucracy at this past Tuesday’s commission meeting.
The police department plans to do public service announcements on how residents can protect themselves and their belongings.
This story has been updated to reflect the arrests of Reyes and Bermudez.