Coral Gables

Coral Gables residents concerned about burglaries

The Coral Gables home of a Univision anchor and her husband was broken into on Wednesday, with more than $60,000 in personal items stolen, police said Friday.

The burglary follows two other recent high-profile cases in the Gables, along with angry residents feeling that the city is not doing enough.

Thieves burglarized the Andalusia Avenue home of Gloria Ordaz and Freddie Balsera at around 1:14 p.m. when no one was home, police said. Ordaz is a reporter and anchor for channel 23, the local affiliate for Univision. Her husband runs a Coral Gables public relations and lobbying firm.

“It’s not the value of losing your possessions, it’s the emotional aspect of it,” Balsera said. “You don’t feel safe in your home. We decided to live in Coral Gables because it’s safe. But the minute you start feeling insecure in your home, that’s where it all changes.”

On Aug. 11, police responded to a home invasion on 801 Navarre Ave., where a man took more than $147,000 worth of jewelry.

According to the police report, a woman was watering her plants on her front lawn when she noticed a man on a bicycle circling the area.

That’s when the man rode his bike onto her driveway, walked behind her and “in an intimidating voice demanded, in perfect Spanish, to get inside the house.”

He told the woman that she could not look at him. He also told her to “put away her dog or he was going to kill it,” the report said. “The man took $100 from her wallet and took $2,000 from a drawer.

Not fully satisfied with the cash, the burglar demanded the woman to give him her wedding ring, worth $45,000. He then took her jewelry box, “said to contain several pieces of jewelry worth $100,000.

No arrests have been made, said police spokeswoman Kelly Denham.

On May 22, Carlos Bardosano, the vice president of programming and original production at Univison, was also burglarized. His Cadiz Avenue home in the Gables was broken into during broad daylight. More than $600,000 worth of watches were stolen, police said.

Residents have been decrying recent crimes, saying that police are not doing enough about the wave of burglaries that have taken place in the last months.

On Tuesday, more than 150 people gathered for a crime watch meeting at the Coral Gables Library. Members of the Coral Gables police department, as well as the Fire Department were in attendance.

At least two city commissioners also are concerned, claiming that the stats being provided by the police department “don’t match the phone calls and complaints received.”

“My phone doesn’t lie,” Lago said. “I get phone calls every day from several different residents complaining about different crimes. How can our crime rate be going down if reality shows otherwise?”

Police Chief Dennis Weiner stressed that the crime rate usually is higher in the summer.

“If you look at the national studies, summertime is routinely a high time for criminal activity, and we are no different than any jurisdiction,” Weiner said. “We always prepare for additional activity in the summer. That is what these residents are feeling.”

According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Coral Gables’ property crime rate is slightly above the national average, although the rate of violent crime is much lower than average.

One possible motive for criminals targeting the Gables: People in the City Beautiful have things to steal. The Gables’ median household income is about $85,000, or nearly triple the $30,000 of neighboring Miami, according to the U.S. Census.

According to FDLE, in 2010, there were 376 reported burglaries and attempted burglaries in the city. In 2011 there were 388; in 2012, there were 409; and in 2013, there were 391.

For the first eight months of this year, the city had 202, according to the police department.

“You have to look at the trend,” Balsera said. “That means that in 2013 there were more than one a day. Gables' numbers slightly improved from 2012 but still were an increase over the last few years.”

Police Union President John Baublitz, said he is unhappy with the confusion among city government officials and residents. He called the stats provided to residents “misleading.”

“Our membership has a lot of concerns,” Baublitz said. “At our last meeting, it was brought up.”

He said the union’s members may have a vote of “no confidence” in the chief on Sept. 17.

But Weiner said the department’s numbers are accurate and officers are making “grand efforts to combat property crimes.”

“We as a police department are clear and transparent with the community,” he added.

In January, the police department implemented the use of SmartWaterCSI, a forensic marking technique used to prove ownership of property.

On sale for $30 for Gables residents, the mascara-like container is filled with a clear, watery substance that is used to mark all valuables. It is 99 percent water, dries invisible, and is nearly impossible to remove or destroy, said Assistant Police Chief Michael C. Miller.

But items marked with the liquid give off a distinct code when police shine a special light on them.

“Police have several lights that shine on property,” Miller said. “Then we take a sample, test it, and send it off to a lab. Then the lab can say with 100 percent certainty that it belongs to the registered owner.”

Police say that getting residents involved with this type of crime prevention tactics will help reduce crime rates.

Lago blamed former city manager Pat Salerno for the current state of the police department. Salerno resigned earlier this year, and the city is seeking a replacement.

When Salerno was in office, public access to police reports were taken offline, requiring residents to call in if they wanted to get their hands on a police report.

Police say victims felt they were being revictimized by having their information online, so the department limited access to reports.

Denham said the police department is on the verge of launching a social media presence, in hopes of reaching out to residents

“This day in age you need to have a presence online,” she said, adding that it will improve communications between the department and residents.