Coral Gables

Letter from the mayor: Coral Gables does not have a serious crime problem

Our police statistics have been verified correct by the FBI. There are no unreported burglaries. Here are the facts:

▪ Coral Gables is one of the safest cities in Florida with almost no violent crime.

▪ Our police are doing a great job.

▪ The Department a couple of weeks ago received accreditation as one of the top 1% of police departments in the country.

▪ We have 191 sworn officers budgeted—the highest ever in the city’s history.

▪ We have 16 vacancies and the Chief plans to recruit 25 officers this year.

▪ We only take 6.5% of applicants (fewer than Harvard)—our cops have to have university training, pass a strict psychological test and be squeaky clean.

▪ The Chief notes he could fill our vacancies today with substandard police, but won’t ruin the force by doing so. His main challenge is in finding the best new officers that meet our standards.

▪ The Commission has given the Police Department all the resources it needs in overtime, equipment and technology. We have a very small attrition rate; our police like working here. Over 300 police from elsewhere have applied for our vacancies.

Our police have a tough job to do — quite a challenge. Our goal is zero crime but we all know that is unrealistic.

What are the challenges:

▪ They have to patrol 220 miles of city roads; 178 streets enter the Gables; they have to protect 16, 389 homes; and respond to 3000 vehicle crashes. And we have a peak daytime population of 80,000 or so.

▪ Home burglaries are down: 332 in 2011; 352 in 2012; 324 in 2013; and 269 at the end of 2014. That means that we have 0.7 homes a day burglarized out of 16,389—less than 1 a day. For example, during the last week of March we only had one home burglary in the city.

▪ Comparing 2014 with 2013, strong arm robberies down 11; non residential burglaries down 23; theft of auto parts down 64; theft from within buildings down 87; theft other down 17; vehicle vandalism down 41.

▪ The biggest type of crime in the Gables is theft of visible items from unlocked cars — 95% of thefts from cars occur when a valuable is in sight and a passerby opens the door and snatches. These usually occur in the middle of the night, and are committed by outsiders. Almost none of our crime is from CG residents.

Several misinformed candidates try to exaggerate crime to gain votes. By doing so they malign our police, scare residents, drive away investors and lower property values.

They lumps thefts from cars with home burglaries claiming that a massive crime wave is underway. A recent mailer used 4,000, and then decided to claim 6,000 burglaries in the past 4 years. The correct figure is 1,267 home burglaries in four years.

We have a 10-point plan, as follows:

1) Increased patrols of residential streets by marked cars;

2) Assignment of the same officers to the same neighborhood so residents know who is protecting them;

3) A new Assistant City Manager for Public safety to coordinate all aspects of crime fighting, including street lights;

4) Technology upgrades to include more license plate readers to interdict known criminals; crime fighting software to allow our cops to coordinate with neighboring cities to lower crime; $6 million in radio upgrades so our police and communicate with each other, regional centers and other Miami police departments;

5) A new citizen Police Advisory Committee to give the Chief community feedback and ideas;

6) A new ordinance that allows homeowners to opt to connect their alarms directly with the police to gain response time (we are the first in the state to do this);

7) A new robust police communication strategy to alert residents of wanted persons, to tout arrests made and give correct data to our residents;

8) A smart water program that allows people to mark their property with an invisible, unique nano marker so that if their property is ever taken, the police can use a black light and trace it back to the owner;

9) A Judge Advocacy program where the city uses its funds to hire a retired circuit court judge and a former prosecutor to help move our cases successfully through the courts;

10) And we recently concluded the first study of the efficiency of the Department in 20 years; the Matrix Group report suggested changing from three to 12 zones, to go from 10-hour to eight-hour shifts and other changes that allowed us to put 13 more officers on the street; and we added seven more officers as well recently.

Jim C. Cason, Mayor of Coral Gables

How to sound off

To submit your letter, email alipman@MiamiHerald.com. Letters must address a specific LOCAL issue and must be signed with a name, city or neighborhood, as well as a telephone number for verification purposes. Letters more than 350 words will not be accepted, and writers are limited to one letter every four weeks. Letters will run as space allows and may be edited for length, style and clarity. The deadline for letters is noon Wednesday.

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