River Cities

Burglaries in Miami Springs down; misinformation abounds

Burglaries are down in Miami Springs, but don’t try to tell that to the victims or their friends and relatives as it has become impossible these days to quell social media, where rumors and misinformation are rampant.

According to Police Chief Pete Baan, during the same period last year, the city had 30 burglaries. This year to date, Miami Springs has had 23 burglaries. In May, there were eight home burglaries in three weeks and four attempts.

“The current outcry over home burglaries is due to social media, which is sensationalizing the crimes,” said Baan. “Along with the rumors.”

Car burglaries are a different matter. In most cases, vehicles were unlocked and sometimes keys were left inside. Often, guns, laptops, wallets and other valuables were left inside and were easy pickings for thieves.

Officer Jeff Clark said some teenagers call it car hopping. “They walk along trying door handles and if the vehicle is open, they take it as an invitation.”

In a relatively small city like Miami Springs, almost everyone knows a burglary victim or knows someone who knows someone who allegedly knows someone. And the burgeoning popularity of Facebook has added fuel to rumors.

An indication of the rumor wildfire happened a few weeks ago when there was a standoff near the high school and misinformation spread like a California wildfire despite the fact that Chief Baan immediately told school officials there was no danger to students.

TV news helicopters didn’t help and countless parents, some in tears, rushed to the school where they were kept back but assured of student safety by local police officers who were on the perimeter of the scene. When Miami-Dade County SWAT took over the scene, they controlled information and Springs Police weren’t allowed to comment to anyone.

In a comparatively small city like Miami Springs, victims and concerned citizen sometimes contact city management and elected officials to express concern over crime and officials tend to feel obligated to react.

Since city management and police officers have a contentious relationship over a union contract, most officers are reluctant to criticize officials.

One officer who preferred not to be identified, said, “I would hope that city officials tell citizens that the police are doing the best we can to prevent crime. We’re professionals and our command officers have a combined total of more than 100 years of experience. To suggest otherwise is an insult. We know our job.”

Understandably, Chief Baan refuses to provide details of what measures officers are taking to catch criminals because knowing what the cops are doing would tip off criminals.

In May, police arrested five men and one juvenile. All had burglary records; however, none was caught in the act or with stolen property and they could only be charged with loitering and prowling.

During a May 22 incident, undercover detectives were watching two men and a juvenile around noon in the 1100 block of Hammond Drive. The three were looking into cars and houses and experienced police officers knew what was up. Unfortunately for police, one of the suspects looked into a dark-window car and saw one of the detectives who was leaning over.

The three jumped into a car and fled at a high rate of speed and were stopped and arrested on Westward Drive. During questioning, Detective Harry Mayer recognized Nathaniel Faustin, 24.

“I arrested him last year,” said Mayer. “He and a 15-year-old girl rode a bus here and burglarized a home on Melrose.”

Mayer theorized that Miami Springs is targeted because the take is good, as in other cities such as Coral Gables. “They’re not going to burglarize in their areas because people don’t have much.”

The usual burglary method is to knock on the front door of a home where there are no parked cars and no one appears to be home. If no one answers, an alarm doesn’t sound, no dog barks and no neighbors are looking, burglars break in through a side or back window or door.

Often, people leave tools or other objects in their yards that can be used to break a window. Even a brick or concrete block can be used. Some burglars travel on bicycles and others use vehicles. Bikers usually take what they can put into their pockets or a backpack while those with vehicles can steal bigger items.

Unfortunately, chances of recovering stolen items are slim because most are traded on street corners for drugs.

Nevertheless, police said the recent arrest of five suspects — although they could only be charged with loitering and prowling — is not only a deterrent to those criminals but also their accomplices and friends.

“We prevented burglaries,” said Detective Robert Barrios. “We’re doing our job.”