Violent crimes in most of Miami-Dade County’s largest cities continued to drop in 2018, extending a decades-long trend in which Miami and unincorporated Miami-Dade recorded some of the lowest homicide rates in memory, according to statistics released this week by the state of Florida.
The exception was Miami Gardens, the third largest municipality in Miami-Dade County, which saw its homicide rate jump by almost 25 percent in 2018 compared to the previous year, the records show.
Statewide — despite an uptick in murders that the state in large part attributes to last year’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland that left 17 people dead — overall violent crime was down by more than 4 percent in 2018. The numbers were compiled by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Mark Hunter, president of the Florida Sheriff’s Association, attributed much of the decrease in overall crime to the state’s “Truth in Sentencing” bill, a controversial law that forces inmates to serve a minimum of 85 percent of a sentence.
“A major reason we enjoy a 48-year low in the crime rate today is because criminals are serving the time they deserve and not creating more crime victims by receiving a ‘get out jail free’ card,” said Hunter.
For the most part, cities throughout Miami-Dade County followed the state trend.
Homicides in Miami, the largest city in the county, dropped from 52 in 2017 to 46 last year, according to state records that the Miami Herald reported on earlier this year. It’s the lowest total in the city in more than half a century. City leaders attributed the decrease to a larger presence on the streets and a public more willing to come forward with information after a series of high-profile murders rocked Miami a few years back.
And homicides in unincorporated Miami-Dade in 2018, a region that accounts for almost half the county’s population of 2.75 million people, stayed almost level from the year before, ticking up by a single killing to 80. Combined, the 44 law enforcement entities that operate in Miami-Dade saw the total number of homicides jump from 188 in 2017 to 198 last year.
Most of that increase was attributed to Miami Gardens, the most northern city in the county and its third largest after Miami and Hialeah. The city had some well-publicized homicides in 2018, including a string of five shootings in June that left four people dead. And in November a man was arrested for killing his wife and her mother.
According to FDLE records, overall crime in Miami Gardens increased almost 16 percent from 2017 to 2018 and homicides rose from 19 in 2017 to 24 last year.
Tamara Wadley, the city’s public affairs director, sidestepped the string of shootings last summer that had city leaders and residents on edge and credited the increase in the city’s homicide rate to an increase in domestic violence.
“These incidents are very difficult to police, especially if we don’t have a pre-warning as a department,” she said. “The city is engaging in domestic violence awareness programs. ‘If you see something, say something’ applies equally to people who are in a relationship.”